Making time for writing

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Finding time to write is always a struggle.  The question of time is the No. 1 issue that comes up in workshops and classes:  “I just don’t have time to write!”  I’m sympathetic because I don’t have time either.  Yesterday, I had email notifications popping up so quickly and what should have been the occasional ‘ping’ sounded like a continuous (ear-jarring) symphony. I’m teaching, collecting data, writing a major grant proposal, supervising many masters and doctoral students, chairing comittees… Just listing all this makes me feel exhausted.  But alongside the busyness, I have a growing frustration about not being able to engage with writing as much as I would like to.  So finding time to write is a ongoing struggle. I’m sure you can relate to this litany of woes.  So what to do?

I mentioned in my book Productive Writing that in research we conducted with research-writing workshop participants, three groups of writers emerged.  The first group were those people who identified as writers. These were faculty and graduate students who saw themselves as writers. They kept regular journals, wrote poetry, research articles, blogs, published on teaching, and generally wrote about anything.  These writers would prioritize writing because they saw the world through writing.  The second group were scholar-writers. These were writers who only wrote to publish and communicate their research.  For these writers, research was the focus and writing the mechanism.  This group also prioritised writing since it was a way to access further grants and to be part of the scholarly conversation in their areas.  For both these groups, they used the tools provided in the workshops to springboard them out of whatever stuck place they found themselves in.

The third group we called the ‘I have no time‘ writers.  These writers wanted to write but could not and lack of time became the reason.  I was fascinated by this group (having been there myself at one point) and have my own theories about procrastination and writing in academic contexts. If you identify with this group, you can read my views and possible strategies here and here.  Here’s a video as well.

Of course, these identities are not fixed – people change – and there may well be other identities but I think it’s useful to think of your writing identity, then to think about time and what you value in the time that you have. The point is not to beat yourself up about it (“I’m the worst person on earth because I can’t find time to write”) but to think about where you can make time to write if it really is important to you. And if you can’t, perhaps other things are more important at this point in your life, and that’s ok.

If you do want to make time to write, listen to the podcast below.  I found it helpful and encouraging – she has sensible, do-able and kind ideas (no bootcamps here!):

Mary Allen — Harnessing Time: The Key to Writing podcast

Questioning ‘productivity’

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The last two posts from me have been about writing productivity apps and how they can help to keep up a regular writing practice. While I see the value in using them (and I have been using one for two weeks now), I find the focus on ‘productivity’ unsettling.   This may seem at odds with an academic life where producing texts is seen to be core business but I know that if I focus on ‘outputs’, I almost always end up writing-paralysed.  Yet, if I focus on the message, who I want to reach, and just keep the writing process going, the product happens anyway but with less stress and angst. This morning, I listened to a podcast on this issue (see below) and although Lorsung is not talking about academic writing specifically, what she says makes so much sense to me.  One final caveat:  we all write differently.  While the focus on productivity makes me want to hide in bed, it may energise you.
Éireann Lorsung — ‘Productivity’ and ‘Failure’ for Writers
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 11:33:14 -0500

Listen

Over and over I hear my students, my peers, and my own interior voice talk about failure as writers. Often this is linked to an idea of ‘productivity’, and in particular to a perception of others as ‘more productive’. As publication online increases the speed at which writing can appear in public, the distance between writing as a process and writing as a product closes. Consequently, the concept of productivity is measured more and more in terms of visible, finished objects, muddling the relation of publication to the act/process of writing. I’ll question the usefulness of these ideas—failure and productivity—for writing, and suggest ways of reframing our writing processes to accommodate work that ‘fails’ or is not visibly ‘productive’. In addition to talking about how what seems like ‘failure’ is an integral part of making writing that’s worthwhile, I’ll offer strategies and concepts—the multiple, the telescope—that help me keep writing despite unhappiness with my work or the feeling that others are ‘better writers’ (meaning ‘more productive’) than I am.

Tracking research

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There seems to be a theme emerging in the blog- and Twitter-shpere on tracking writing productivity. Read this blog for more…

DoctoralWriting SIG

Dr Abigail Winter is a transdisciplinary independent scholar, whose day job is working at the Information Coordinator in QUT’s Reporting and Analysis section. Her research interests vary broadly around the higher education sector, including organisational change management, journalism, student employability, research methods, and teaching and learning. She is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK) and can be contacted at a.winter@qut.edu.au. Susan Gasson is the Manager of the Research Students’ Centre at QUT. She writes on research methods and HDR issues, including student mobility and internationalisation, and is currently planning her own doctoral research project. In this post they write about their use of Excel to track research writing and reading.

By Abigail Winter and Susan Gasson

I began 2016, as so many previous years, with the intention of becoming more productive. As a bibliophile since the age of about 4 years old, my first place to go was…

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What makes a successful writing group?

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Here is a different take on motivating yourself to write – using some of the apps available to writers.

The Research Whisperer

angeladobele02-smallDr Angela Dobele is an academic at RMIT University in Melbourne. Her teaching and research practices seek to make vital contributions to resolving the social, environmental and wicked problems of our times.

In her scholarly practice, Angela aims to be grounded in real-world problems, critical in theoretical and marketing orientation, and andragogical in her approach to student performance.

Her thesis topic and subsequent research considers word-of-mouth (at the intersection of relationship marketing and communication theories), both online (viral) and traditional referrals. Her other research topics concern academic workloads and research on student performance. Angela can be found on Twitter at @AngelaDobele.


Photo by Mark Asthoff | unsplash.comPhoto by Mark Asthoff | unsplash.com

An Organiser’s Perspective of Writing Groups: Dr Angela Dobele (@AngelaDobele)

It’s really hard in a crowded academic life to make time for your own research writing and spend time with your colleagues.

To create a great foundation for doing both, I introduced a writing program at my…

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Where to get my books

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Thank you to all of you who comment, follow this blog and subscribe to my videos.  I really appreciate hearing that they help you.  Many of you have asked where you can get my books.  This is a tricky question since they were published in South Africa and are not on Amazon.  However, the publishers have assured me that international buyers can get my books from Adams Books.

As far as I know, you can get both hard copies and the online versions from this bookseller.

Cecile

Apps that help writing productivity

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These days just about everyone has a FitBit or a walking app to count how many steps they take in a day.  Well, if you look here,  and here you’ll find blog posts that list a number of online apps that can help you keep on track with your writing.  They range from helping you to keep focused, counting words written to blocking distractions.  I haven’t tried any of them myself but I think I will.

Mmmm, I wonder if there are apps I can use on my phone…

coping with writing anxiety – or – learn to stroke your spider

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Here’s a blog by Pat Thomson on writing and anxiety that I thought you might enjoy.

patter

Desensitisation is a psychological term. It is used to describe a process through which a very anxious – perhaps even phobic – person gradually becomes used to the object or situation which makes them afraid. Professional support is often required for effective desensitisation.

Desensitisation usually consists of three steps – developing a fear hierarchy, relaxation training and then something called reciprocal inhibition. Let me explain these steps in a touch more detail.

The fear hierarchy – well this requires making a list. You make a list about the thing you are anxious about, going from the least terrifying version to the absolutely most awful. (In clinical practice this list-making is done with a therapist and there might be discussions about where these fears came from. ) My favorite example of a possible fear hierarchy is this –

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  • Think about a spider
  • Look at a photo of a spider
  • Look at a real spider in…

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five ways to structure a literature review

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Here’s a blog on writing literature reviews. I particularly liked the idea of the wheel structure.

patter

You’ve read. And read. And read.You’ve noted. And noted. And how. You’ve written summaries and memos.You’ve made groupings and mind-maps of the reading.But you’re still a bit away from actually writing about the literatures. You’re still not sure how to wrestle all of that material into a compliant text.You know the purposes of the literature review. But that doesn’t tell you what structure will work for your particular project.

Before you put pen to paper – or hand to mouse – it might help you to now think about the ways in which literature chapters, if you decide to have one, are most often structured. You can then see if one of the usual ways will work for you.

So here’s a set of five possibilities.

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  • A chronology

As the name suggests, this is an historical map of the field. In writing historically, your intention is to show how…

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Writing processes

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Although I firmly believe that writing is a social practice (we write to be read and in response to contextual conditions), a good portion of our writing time is often done alone.  Many of you will know that I’m very interested in ‘procrastination’ in academic writing and what this means.  Often procrastination is touted as a lack fo self-disicpline and I honestly think that poor self-disicpline is not a characteristic of most graduate students.  The graduate students I see are, in addition to studying, working, looking after families, volunteering on student and other committees, and generally leading exceptionally busy lives. I think procrastination has less to do with individual personality traits and more to do with the nature of academic writing.  I’ve made this argument several times – in my book “Productive Writing” and in various presentations.

Recently, I’ve become interested in what individual writing processes look like and what this can tell us about procrastination.  By chance, I came across this YouTube video made by a student on his writing processes.  It has made me think about the way I write:  when do I pause?  how often do I edit? when does writing flow? Have a look and see what you think.

Cecile