Looking Productive

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I’ve spent the last few years working on a book about graduate writing. That process is now drawing to a close: Thriving as a Graduate Writer will be published in June! Between now and then, I’m going to use this space to share brief excerpts. In addition to my discussion of principles, strategies, and habits for effective academic writing, the book has short ‘asides’ that allowed me to engage with topics outside that main narrative. Over the next four months, I’ll share my favourites of those asides. As always, I’d love to hear what you think!

Book Cover showing title: Thriving as a Graduate Writer

Looking Productive

Any discussion of productivity must consider the aesthetics of productivity. Could you be working in ways that you think look like what hard work should look like—starting early, avoiding breaks, denying yourself things—rather than in ways that you have found effective? A good approach to productivity must pass a real test: Does it make you more productive, in the sense of making you feel in charge and stimulated by your work? Don’t think of a midday walk as a guilty pleasure; think of it as crucial to the overall health of your embodied mind. Rather than finding it random that you have great ideas in the shower, build in ways to capture those ideas. If you are helped by napping, then a nap is probably a good idea. Mindfulness or meditation breaks may do far more for you than would just sticking with your task. Your goal is positive writing experiences, not the appearance of hard work. The greatest hazard of trying to appear productive is the push toward long days; those sorts of writing endurance tests can be inhospitable to writing because writing is often too draining to be an all-day thing. Recognizing and respecting your limits might make you look less productive while nonetheless allowing you to build a sustainable and satisfying writing routine.

Thriving as a Graduate Writer will be available in early June from the University of Michigan Press. To pre-order your copy, visit the book page. Order online and save 30% with discount code UMS23!

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