— Jo VanEvery (@JoVanEvery) October 19, 2016
I thought it would be worth doing a quick check in as to how my writing challenge has been going mid-term. Tomorrow #AcWriMo begins and it comes just in time for me to tackle some half finished papers that have been on the slow burn! This post will look at how I’ve been using my 15 minutes of acwri and what I’ve (re)learnt about my writing habits, so that hopefully this years #AcrWriMo will be a personal success.
Okay I admit I do not have a massive teaching load this term so in many ways I am advantaged, but to be honest the regular 15 minutes that I have been devoting to the beginning of each day are helping me recognise some habits about my writing (and reading) practices that I think can be maintained even in those busier times. I’m 6 months past my PhD thesis ( 2 months past corrections) and already I’m starting to wonder how I ever got it done in between working and family life. I need to remember – because I have a stack of papers to write!
In the meantime here is how I’ve been using my 15 minute #AcWri so far:
Writing to do lists for the week:
Everyone loves a list! (or is that just me?) Lists give my life and work meaning and give me a sense of accomplishment. Just like this one, as it is a reverse ‘done list’ a way of reflecting on what I have done over the last few weeks. ‘To do’ lists also keep my day on track.
Writing Short Blog Posts:
This longer post has actually taken up 3 of my 15 minutes as I planned it more than most. However what I have learnt is that I can actually write rather a lot in free form within this timescale. Writing drafts or published posts for this or guest blogs gets the ‘stuff’ out of my head and clears my thoughts for the day – a bit like the sitting down version of a morning run. After a couple of days I noticed my word count jumping up from 500, 600, 700. It’s amazing considering for my other ‘proper writing’ I can spend 6-7 hours trying to force out a paragraph or two!
Like the academics I follow for #acrwi advice (@raulpacheco, @thesiswhisperer, @explorstyle) I include reading in my acwri routines. I cannot however read an article or chapter deeply in fifteen minutes, despite my many talents superwoman speed reading is not one! Inspiring blog posts, initial reading of chapters (already identified in my to do list) and abstracts are just about what I can cover in this time – sifting through the “oooh that’s interesting” to the “I do actually need to know more about this stuff to inform my thinking/writing”. What I have found is that only online blog reading previously identified and in the list works in 15 minutes, and my failure has been clinking on links and wandering into the online ocean, only to surface 1 hour later! Not advised ..
Working on application forms:
I have had various funding and job applications to complete over the last month, planning and proof reading my statements and CVs during a 15 minute spurt has made this a much less onerous task (ignore this sentence if you love a good application form!).
Been meaning to do this since I handed in my thesis and just never got around to it. 15 minutes works great for a bit of electronic filing and because I stop when the alarm goes off I stay focused and don’t sway into reading tagged material from many moons ago.
This is a tricky one and only works if you concentrate and answering yesterday’s emails on the understanding/acceptance that you will never beat that academic email mountain. If you answer yesterday’s emails and deal with them quickly 15 minutes helps you limit not only the amount of work day time you spend but also that overwhelming feeling that accompanies a full inbox.
I would like to say to any future students, publishers, reviewers and employers that I do obviously spend full days editing my writing! However fifteen minutes is enough to edit a draft blog post, important email or statements for aforementioned application forms.
Knocking out a 3-5 hour lesson plan, synopsis and reading in 15 minutes is a great way to start a lesson planning day. Once that is in place you can structure the rest of the day deep reading and writing the lecture or activity you have planned without getting distracted with where you put you comfort break in.
All this counts as academic writing to me and is most definitely serving to clear the decks before what ever long term activity of the day begins. As I approach my second #AcWriMo as a fledgling academic I think the above strategies will help keep me on course.