InaDWriMo: help me get writing!

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Via ScienceWoman, I learn that there's a month for those of us who aren't ready to write a novel, namely, International acaDemic Writing Month.

I am so there.

Back when I was disserting (the second time) a bunch of us who were at the stage of our studies where it felt like we ought to be getting serious writing done formed a kick-in-the-butt club. We met roughly twice a month (possibly weekly for certain stretches, if I'm remembering correctly), talked about what we had accomplished since the last meeting, brainstormed ways to face down writer's block, and most importantly, we set goals for what piece of writing we would accomplish by the next time we met.

Making the goal public, at least within our group, meant that we had to do our best to actually meet them. (It also meant that our fellow dissertation-writers could talk us out of setting unreasonably ambitious goals and then beating ourselves up for not meeting them.)

Somehow, post-grad school, it's been harder to find the same kind of motivation and support from fellow toilers. So I'm going to follow ScienceWoman's lead and make some writing goals for November a matter of public record.

Which means I'm accountable to you all for making some progress with them.

I'm listing these in order of most plausibly do-able to most ambitious, but the hope is that by the end of the month I'll have dealt with at least four of these.

  1. Revise the philosophy of science paper that needs revising and send it off to the journal.
  2. Take the responsible conduct of research paper that really should be two separate papers, divide it into two papers, revise both of the descendant papers, and send them off to journals.
  3. Write a full working draft of the paper outlined in longhand that I keep dragging back and forth in my backpack.
  4. Draft two sections of the collaborative project started this summer and use these sections to nudge the collaborators back into action.
  5. Outline and draft the paper that a journal editor told me probably ought to be written by someone.
  6. Draft the essay it would be good to distribute to the "Ethics in Science" class Spring semester.
  7. Work out a detailed outline of the other collaborative project in the works and send it to the collaborator.
  8. Write a detailed outline for the planned monograph.

I think I'll stop the list there so as to avoid totally freaking out. Regular updates will be forthcoming.

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Some of you may be aware that, at least in certain corners of the blogosphere, November is celebrated as International acaDemic Writing Month. Indeed, in November 2007 I jumped onboard the InaDWriMo bandwagon. This past November I did not, largely because my November usually turns out to be a…

Janet -- I can relate to the situation you are in -- your mind is broad-ranging and is constantly hitting upon new and interesting ideas. However, I have found that this is not an effective mode for success in academia -- your list is way too long, and even 4 goals is too much for a single month.

If you want your Writing Month to be effective, I would suggest you eliminate all but the first two goals -- that way you will not waste any time just staring at a blank page (or screen). Start with item 1 -- number each of the reviewers' points, and format the response letter immediately. Spend any free hour this week filling in one of the response points.

If you can get that paper out by the end of the week (I don't know how hard the critiques were), you will have 3 weeks left this month. It is reasonable to assume that the week of Thanksgiving is likely to be a write-off -- kids out of school, in-laws visiting, what-have-you.

That means that there are only two effective weeks left to accomplish goal #2. In two weeks, I think it is wise to take the "better" half of the responsible conduct paper and try to complete one polished draft. Put the "second half paper" out of your mind for now -- it may or may not be good enough to stand on its own, but thinking about it will only get in the way of your completing the first descendent paper.

Getting two good manuscripts out this month is more than enough to be proud of!

Please forgive the presumptious tone of this (unsolicited) advice. If my post seems way off-base, please ignore it completely. On the other hand, I think I can recognize an experience I have been through, and I am just trying to help share my own strategy. Also, you suggested that your dissertation partners were helpful in weeding out unrealistic goals, and it seems like you might benefit from that here.

By Neuro-conservative (not verified) on 03 Nov 2007 #permalink

Good luck with your goals for InaDWriMo and yes, you're right that kind of support for writing and getting things done is hard to find in the hallways of academia.

I came across your blog recently and just added you to my blogroll, so I thought I'd stop by and say hi.

Janet, as someone who spends all my time writing and editing (I'm a freelance medical/scientific writer), I have to agree with "Neuro-conservative" regarding your goals for November. Just seeing a list of more than 2 or 3 big things for this month makes me grimace. Remember that the holidays are coming up, you've got kiddos needing support/encouragement/dinner/etc., and you want quality stuff to go out the door with your name on it. So, with all those things in mind, here are my suggestions:

Put #1 and #2 on the top of the pile for November; they are rewriting projects and can be accomplished relatively quickly (note the "relatively" here). This will make you feel that you've accomplished a major set of goals with not a lot of effort. [And, if you are on a calendar like mine, they'll get counted for your 2007 output if they leave your desk before the end of December!]

Take #3 and make an electronic version of the outline, then start handwriting key items that you want to discuss within that outline format. You may find that you have totally rewritten the paper by the time you start fleshing out the outline, but seeing it in hardcopy will help you organize the beast more efficiently.

With #4, draft an outline that the collaborators can play with, then send it off to them to remind them of their responsibility regarding contribution to the effort. If you are really feeling energized, suggest who should write what sections (or provide feedback on specific sections) and give them DEADLINES for returning their stuff.

The nice thing about the remaining bullet points is that you can work on these as time becomes available. I find that outlining fits into the cracks in my schedule and I often end up pondering the paper while doing all those fun parenting jobs that occur in my daily routine.

Good luck, it'll be a tough month, but you'll pull it off!

Another agreement with Neuro-conservative, focus. Start with #1, get that done, and then go on to #2. And another thing, don't worry about how you say it, just say it. Get the words down and worry about dressing them up later. That's why God invented 'delete'.

"Back when I was disserting ..."

Is this disserting in the face if the enemy?!

So --- how's it been going? Two weeks down, two to go!

By Neuro-conservative (not verified) on 17 Nov 2007 #permalink