#AcWriMo 1: the warm–up
Last week I blogged about #AcWriMo, or Academic Writing Month, and this is the first of a series of posts in which I'll blog about my experience of trying to write lots of words in not very much time.
AcWriMo doesn't start until tomorrow, but this past week has been all about the warm-up. Just as it would be foolish to embark on a marathon without ample preparation beforehand, so too does setting out on a long writing stretch require some limbering up. Over the last week I set myself the challenge of starting to identify what writing time I have available, how I will best use it, and what goals I can realistically set myself. I've also identified weaker areas where I'm in need of helpful advice!
- Time: I have 1 day a week for research/writing, and the rest is (most) evenings and (some) weekends. I have a slight cheat-week next week as it's Reading Week. So next week, it's all systems go! But after that I need to pre-plan dedicated writing time each day and look ahead to the whole month to spot the quiet and busy patches.
- Making best use of the time available: although I have most evenings free, this is absolutely my worst time of day to write. I often work out of necessity in the evening, but mostly on admin tasks that don't need so much thought; I would love to know how people manage to write after a long day at work. One thing I think will be useful for me is not to assume that this is dead writing time and to plan a range of tasks to choose from depending on mood and tiredness. I've trialled this over the past week with mixed results, giving me a better sense of how to set realistic aims for this time; I've also realised that it helps to set defined limits on evening writing time, e.g. a block of an hour, rather than attempt to keep going as long as possible.
- Making better use of the in-between time: related to the above, I've been trying to make better use of breaks and in-between times (bus journeys, spare hours between classes, time when I first get home) to switch off. If I know I've got work to do in the evening it's tempting to stay "switched on" during these times- checking emails, doing small bits of work, thinking about what I'm going to do later - basically, trying to keep my head in the work-zone. The past week I've been trying the opposite and using this as rest-time... with the result that I feel more refreshed to go back to work later on, and work better as a result. I've been trying various things like listening to podcasts on the bus journey or taking time for a proper break when I get home, but again, I'd love to know what strategies people have for switching off for short amounts of time.
- Setting goals: AcWriMo guidelines are to declare your writing goals at the start of the month, hence allowing for pre-planning. My priority here is writing my book, and although I have to allow for a couple of other committments which will require writing time, the important thing about AcWriMo is feeling that you're setting your writing agenda for once.
To that end, my main goals are:
- finishing current book chapter of 18,000 words (currently at 11,000 in very draft form);
- redrafting and revising next chapter of 15,000 words;
And my additional (necessary) goals are:
- writing a paper for a research seminar in late November;
- writing an undergraduate lecture on Great Expectations;
- writing my 2 blog posts of the month for Journal of Victorian Culture Online.
If you're a Warwick researcher taking part then do let us know, or head over to the AcWriMo sign-up. Happy writing!