time to write

Despite my best intentions, this blog is (a) semi-neglected, and (b) mostly pregnancy related.  Sorry y’all. Explanation encapsulated in this post.

I think one of the longest enduring tropes in academia is “I should be writing”.

The problem with this is manyfold, not least of which is that academics don’t need any additional things to be feeling behind or guilty about, that’s just our status quo for everything.

I’m realizing I need to adjust my writing style to my new position. I had anticipated this, but it’s not something that was really going to happen until I had to do so. The real issue is the absence of big tracts of space in my day to sit and percolate and write and erase and write and ponder. My writing technique is relatively efficient when actually writing, but it takes a lot of lead up time, time that looks like “down time”, where I’m thinking about writing but am doing anything else. That anything else, though, can’t be something productive, or then I’m not thinking about writing. (it certainly can’t be blogging, because then I’m using my writing energies*)

I need to shorten that timeline, and find ways to percolate on writing that aren’t what I’ve come up with so far: 1) dedicate entire day to staring at the wall. This leads to great self-hatred and stress, even when a day later it pays off in two new pages of manuscript. 2) allow percolation to continue while at home. This makes me absent and distracted with Pea, and means I’m bringing my work home with me all the time which is not my general plan. 3) Get panicky and write crap just to have written something. This rarely works for me, although I acknowledge it as a legitimate tactic for breaking the blank page. I don’t like to edit my work heavily, as I edit while writing, and facing a page of messy, ill thought out prose is harder for me than facing the same bullet point outline as the day before.

I’ve had a bit of success with an adapted pomodoro technique. Very adapted, I just set a timer for 45 minutes and am not allowed to deviate from task for that time (no clicking on all my internet tabs, no texting my sisters, no wandering off for a steamed milk, no multitasking between progressively easier tasks until I find one I don’t have to concentrate to do). I find I can do two of these a day without really trying, and they are always always highly productive times. I’m trying to get up to three bursts** – I’ve tried for three a few times, but have been interrupted significantly at least once each of those days. I do leave my door open during these windows, and maybe that’s something I need to shift. It’s a door-open department though, and I like that. It took me a few tries to not forget the timer was going and wander off in the middle of my stint (hello, short attention span, holy..), but now I find just knowing I’m on the clock is supremely helpful.


* so my brain thinks, I know there is good research to support that all writing makes any writing easier and better, the more you write, the better for your writing it will be.
** I recognize this only translates to 2.25 hours of productive time a day, and it should be reasonable to achieve, but it is hard to fit in with the avalanche of email per day, and the near constant meetings scheduled.

2 thoughts on “time to write

  1. rainbowgoblin

    I read a book on how to write more once, and one of the few things I retained was the idea of separating the tasks of writing and revision. This goes along with the “just sit and write SOMETHING” approach. I actually ended up doing something like the 45 minute power writing sessions you’re attempting, forcing myself to just keep going, and leaving problematic bits as **fill this in later**. It was almost always easy to fill those parts in when I came back to it (I assume because my brain could just focus on those while doing its background job work once I was away from writing).

    In any case, if you do 2 (or even 1) power writing sessions every day, you’ll be very productive, I think. You just have to do it every day, or every day you plan to do it, anyway (this is the real problem for most academics… Most writers, actually).

    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      Very true, given I failed to do even one yesterday after that post! I’m going to try to write at least once a day every day, as there is always always something that needs writing.


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