Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Over at ProfHacker, contributor Billie Hara has a post about ways that we might think about emotionally committing ourselves to write. And you know, I've tried those tactics: the everyday, the writing as an addiction, the rhythms of daily habit. For me, not to much. I've always been a writer who works in fits and starts: nothing for two, three months, and then an article in three weeks. If you count actual writing time, I wrote my dissertation in about four months. But those four months of writing happened over about two years.

And now, with three kids, one of them on a still-quite-unpredictable schedule, the other two home a lot for snow days, a three-prep courseload (including a new grad prep), and enough service obligations to fill in the gaps, and the fifteen-minutes-a-day approach isn't working, because many days I don't have even those fifteen minutes to spare.

When I am able to carve out time, they tend to be big swaths that require a good big of schedule juggling, and can't be counted on to be repeated at regular intervals. So those of you who don't of can't manage those regular writing schedules, how do you get your writing done? Every article has been different for me, sometimes working at night, sometimes finding a sweet spot in my semesterly schedule (not this semester!), sometimes using my summer really well. But rarely for more than a month at a time, and even more rarely two writing stretches in one semester/summer. Those spots are really productive, often producing anywhere from 25-65 polished ms pages. But then I'm shot for a while. I feel like I'm gearing up for another stretch here soon (not sure when, exactly), but I've got to find the time. So am I committed to writing? Yeah. But I'm committed to a lot of other things, too.


pocha said...

I teach on the quarter system, so my writing schedules change every few months. I generally try to devote the first part of my non-teaching days to writing. What I've found is that if I avoid the Internet and begin working right when I get to my office (no home office!), I'll get something done.

Also, I usually commit one day during the weekend (typically Sunday) to some writing.

While I've never been able to stick to the 15 minutes/day (although I think I managed this fairly consistently while writing my diss), I do think that some variation of that system works best for me. So, maybe not 15 minutes a day, but definitely about 4 hours/week.

Also, I've forced myself to write at Starbucks a few times b/c they don't offer free WiFi.

It's the Internet (and all the wonderful blogs I read!!) that seems to distract me the most.

marry said...
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Tom said...


I doubt I'd ever encourage anyone to "do it my way," but for what it's worth, I write when I can find the time to write. But I'm always working on something (usually many things) in the sense that I always have projects that are current, so that when I do find the time, I always have something to write on.

And getting a big grant to help you find the time to write: that I would recommend to anyone!

Earnest English said...

I'm like you, Horace, in that I write in fits and starts because of my schedule being devoted to a little one, though I recognize the goodness of working daily and do try to do just that.

Here's what I really think though. I think we tend to have a limited view of what counts as actual writing, as if everyone writes in a linear way from start to finish with revisions. Personally I have to write notes and journals and splurches on the page and then a whole bunch of junk and then refocusing outlines and all sorts of crap until I've really thought a lot about my topic -- then I might write a decentish draft rather quickly in a spurt or two. So I find that making myself think about my topic on a regular basis really helps, so I'm engaged in the productive thinking. This works pretty well because my day is FULL of necessary but relatively mindless tasks. (I could be singing Schoolhouse Rocks songs in my head while nursing; more productively, I wonder what I should emphasize in my upcoming conference paper.) I can't tell you whether this works or not though. Too early to tell. But it does keep me engaged in my work.

So my question to you is: what are you thinking about during those two or three months before a spurt of writing -- and couldn't that be considered working?

As I said on my blog, I've had to reconsider "writing" as "working," because sometimes the best thing I can do is read a bit more (rarely, since I can get lost in it). How often do you "work" (as in think) about your scholarship? Do you get a different answer? And I consider presenting your scholarship to students to be working too -- I often learn valuable things that way.

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