Yesterday was the first day of Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo), a month dedicated to academic productivity and public accountability. The full ‘rules’ can be found at the PhD2Published site, but here’s the short version: Aim high, tell everyone, be strategic, check in, work hard. Even if you don’t have the flexibility to devote the whole month to writing, this approach is inspiring for its can-do spirit and its commitment to making academic writing less lonely. If you need convincing, The Thesis Whisperer has a great post about why AcWriMo is a better idea than you might initially think. In a similar vein, Anna Tarrant has an interesting piece in The Guardian’s Higher Education Network blog on the way that an initiative like this can create a much-needed social space for a sustainable approach to academic writing.
I didn’t participate in this project last year. In part, I made that decision because it was explicitly geared towards writing an academic book (it was actually called AcBoWriMo), something that I was mercifully not trying to do. More generally, I was also aware that I didn’t need that sort of productivity burst. There have definitely been times in my life—during some parts of the dissertation writing process, for instance—when it would have been very helpful for me to alter my life to achieve drastic writing goals. At this point, however, I need a more systematic approach. I definitely want to be more productive and consistent as a writer, so I am approaching AcWriMo as an experiment: what can I do to give writing the prominence in my work life that I so wish it had?
My goals will thus be of two sorts. In the first place, I have set some targets for myself: Five blog posts (which is the number I would have tried to write this month anyway) and a draft of an article (which will grow out of a conference presentation, so I am not starting from scratch). Prompted by the AcWriMo spreadsheet, I have set a target of an hour of writing a day, five days a week (the numbering may shift, but I am currently number 234 in the Academic Writing Accountability spreadsheet). My second goal will be to understand how participation in this project affects me. Should I have set a word count instead of making a time commitment? Should I have aimed higher or lower? Will social media accountability be helpful? I look forward to reflecting on these questions in early December.
But those questions are just about me and my own productivity challenges. The truly interesting thing about AcWriMo is the notion of people around the world engaging in academic writing ‘out loud’. What can be so inward becomes a bit more outward, which means that the usual frustrations can be a matter of public acknowledgement rather than private self-castigation. The shared sense of the intrinsic pain of writing—and I say that as someone who loves to write—can be a source of humour and encouragement. The #AcWriMo hashtag is already inspiring, funny, and enlightening: small triumphs, inevitable setbacks, lots of jokes, and a myriad of approaches from which to learn. I will be updating my progress here and on Twitter (@explorstyle)—I hope you’ll follow along.
Recent links from @explorstyle on Twitter
From @ProfHacker, a great post on graduate students and the expectations about the hours they should work.
From The Singular Scientist, a valuable discussion of the subtleties of communicating research to different audiences.
From @GradHacker, a typology of the Halloween characters lurking in your graduate program.
It may not be the most influential of his 40+ books, but Barzun’s Simple and Direct is one of my favourite books on writing.
From Inside Higher Ed, an honest account of being miserable in graduate school and deciding whether or not to finish.
I love this! Lucy Ferriss (in Lingua Franca) argues that ‘this’ sometimes needs more than just a referent.
From @DocwritingSIG, important reflections on the role of professional editing in doctoral writing.