Monthly Archives: November 2012

#AcWriMo Update

So, it turns out routines can be fun!

Having said that, I actually strayed from my original plan on the about the first day and have not actually been able to enact it in its purest form once. But that’s not important right? The important thing is that I have kept to ‘a’ routine, a very productive one. I will probably not make my original targets, but this is partly because my plans have changed a bit as to how I’m going to organise my time between now and the end of December; book hand in day. I have also managed to get more writing done this month than I have in the 3 previous combined. And for the most part I’ve been pretty happy with what I’ve written. Not all of it for sure. There is one section which I am particularly nervous about and might take out altogether, but I was deliberately trying not to be too precious with what I wrote down, just getting it down was the priority.

So my actual working routine has looked more like this:

7am Wake up (6am was just not going to work)

7.30am Leave house

9am Arrive at work. Start writing.

10am Stop writing. Start day job.

6pm Leave work.

7.30pm Arrive home. Live.

11-12pm Go to sleep

I couldn’t get up at 6am mostly because I was finding I wasn’t able to get to sleep till about midnight most nights. This is partly because I go swimming most evenings, and this leaves me pretty far from sleep – though a really hot bath seems to help. But I think it was also a general level of stimulation that really just needed me to be able to loaf around a bit in the evening and do nothing in order to let my brain rest a bit after my day.

Unfortunately this extra hour in bed meant an hour less of writing per day, so I generally only managed 1 hour. I think on my worst day this yielded about 300 words, and on my best just over 1000. In the longer term if I can keep this kind of routine going then I think about 500 words per day would be a realistic target. I have done my best to make up the rest on quieter days in the office and on weekends, and in this I have been moderately successful. I was also pleased to find that there was more that I wanted to keep in the book drawn from what I had originally written for my PhD, sometimes re-written, sometimes just a highlight attached to a chunk of text and a little ‘to do’ note beside it.

Now that I have my introduction, theory and method chapter written I am kind of between a first and second draft. The first half is all second draft the second half is all first draft.

This  is why my plans have changed a bit, and even though I know it is the chapter that needs the most work, rather than write my conclusion now, I want to go through the remaining chapters first and see what else is going to need updating, before I get to the conclusion. Though this potentially leaves me with more writing to do torwards the death, I think it is important to be attacking this thing from start to finish, after all, it does help if the conclusion flows logically from the preceding chapters right?

So, sticking with my same routine, I am now looking not so much for ‘words written’ but ‘pages edited’. I have no idea how many pages per hour I will be able to get through, I guess that depends on how much work they need. But I would really like to be ready to re-draft the conclusion by the end of the month. This then leaves me about two weeks to write the conclusion and have a complete run through, then another two weeks to do the real i dotting t crossing work to prepare for submission. Minus about 3 days for christmas.

I know this is still a shit load to try and get done in the time. But I have a new found stream of confidence running through my sea of neurosis, thanks mostly to the #AcWriMo initiative, and particularly the online accountability spreadsheet on which you fill in your daily tally. The Foucauldian in me revels in this kind of self imposed discipline; with such constraints comes incalculable freedoms.

Oh and I managed the day job as well.

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#AcWriMo Strategy

November is #AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month), an opportunity for academics to get together to boost their productivity, think strategically, get support from others and generally together try and make better sense of this strange occupation of writing. You can read about it in the Guardian, you can also join the Twitter brigade here.

I joined today, officially. As you’ll see from the newspaper piece, the first step is to set a target and develop a strategy, so that is my plan here today. A couple of things are frightening me though.

Firstly, I don’t necessarily play nicely with others – or rather find others often don’t play nicely with me, and am generally wary of crowds, collectives, groups.

Secondly, I fear targets, the pessimist in me feels the threat of failure only increased by setting oneself a target.

Thirdly, I am rubbish at strategy. Just totally, absolutely, gut wrenchingly, rubbish.

However. Circumstances have moved ahead of these preferences. I have writing to do, serious quantities of it. And I need it done now. The last time I felt quite as nervous about a piece of writing was when I was about 12 months from the end of my PhD and just about to start the dreaded ‘write’. At that time I was prepared to tackle the above fears head on, by setting myself a daily target of 1000 words, and taking in editing time and meetings with my supervisor, aiming for roughly a chapter a month. That sounds like a strategy right? I also started a blog where the 1000 word milestone was the main focus, and talked about my daily progress, struggles, etc…

Well. The short version is that it worked. I enjoyed the blogging experience, I found the daily target a very productive discipline, and l0 and behold, I produced something of which I was incredibly proud within the alloted time.

I am now attempting to publish my PhD as a book. I have a contract to do so. My submission date is the 1st January (fun New Year’s huh?). I have already had every extension I’m going to get. And I’m behind.

The Target

In order to give myself enough time to edit, review, re-write etc. I need to finish the book by the end of this month. When I say ‘finish’ I mean I need to have everything there, not necessarily perfect, not necessarily in the right order, and not necessarily with every last ‘t’ crossed, but everything there, somewhere, a first draft.

Chapter 1 is done. It needs a bit of work which can wait till December. All good so far.

Chapter 2 is about half written. I need to finish it.

Chapter 3, 4, 5, & 6 are all pretty much in the bag. They will all need some attention, nothing major, can wait till December.

Chapter 7 needs writing. From start to finish. Period.

Each chapter is roughly 10,000 words long. My priority is to finish Chapter 2 and write Chapter 7, so, 15,000 words.

Today is the 2nd November. That means I have 20 working days and 8 weekend days, take out the weekends I am already unavailable and that becomes 4 days.

Then there is the day job. One major project drawing to a close and a new one in the pipeline, there is simply no way that I can give anything less than 9-5 to the day job at the moment. Nevertheless I have taken out all other commitments, no reviewing, no seminars, no teaching, no conferences, till 2013. I probably won’t get much reading done either – unless it’s relevant to the book of course.

So, I think the most I am going to give to writing on an average work day is about 2 hours.

Weekends are a different kind of challenge. Saturday is ok, I can go into the office and pretend it’s still the week and I probably won’t notice until after lunch. Let’s say I can get 4 hours a day of writing. Sunday, office closed, more difficult, I’ll say another 2 hours a day for each Sunday. I know this doesn’t seem like much, but weekends are tricky, I will need some time to rest, and there’s no point setting an unrealistic target.

So. Total hours: (22 x 2) + (2 x 4) = 52

52 hours in which to write 15,000 words. That’s around 290 words per hour, or 580 words for each 2 hour session.

Ok. That is going to be tough but not out of the question. The conditions will have to be right though.

The Strategy

My best writing time is the morning, and my most productive writing place currently is my office. So whenever possible I need to get to the office as early as I can, which given a 90 minute commute is probably 8am. My ideal daily routine therefore is:

6am Wake Up

6.30am Leave house

8am Arrive at work. Start Writing.

10am Stop writing. Start day job.

6pm Finish day job. Go home.

7.30pm Get home. Eat. Rest. Exercise.

11pm Go to sleep

A quick check on my diary suggests that, currently, this is realistic on all but 3 of my workdays. That’s 6 hours off the total, which means a new hourly target of 325 and daily target of 650.

I will just have to see how I get on, it’s likely I will need to squeeze some more out of my weekends. I purposely estimated low for the weekends, an attempt to build some contingency into the plan, so hopefully I can find a few more hours there.

So. A routine huh? Another thing I fear and mistrust, as you can find out for yourself on these very pages.

I have kept to this kind of routine before, though not for more than a couple of weeks at a time. It is demanding, but do-able. As long as the simple things like ‘go to sleep’ don’t present too many problems…

*Deep breath*