Here's something of an odd confession for a writing professor, although I think my fellow scholar-teachers in rhetoric and composition will agree to one degree or another: I am constantly forgetting and relearning how to write. It's a habit that needs constant attention to keep it functional.
The two most intense writing periods of my professional life thus far have been my thesis and dissertation, with the latter taking the prize. I feel like I wrote my thesis in some kind of feverish frenzy, utilizing unsustainable binge writing techniques to complete the project. (He's too kind to say it--maybe?--but I'm sure my thesis advisor would agree with that assessment.) But when I wrote my dissertation, I was disciplined and systematic. So where did that discipline go?
As I write this blog post, which will be a relatively brief one, I have several projects due to editors in the uncomfortably near future. So first question: If I have so much writing to do, why am I writing this post? Good question.
When I was writing my dissertation, I spent ten or fifteen minutes at the beginning of each writing session to write about writing. It helped me to clear my head and get into a productive space. So for today, this post is providing me with that opportunity. I'm reviving a practice that served me well when I was producing 5,000 to 7,000 words per week.
|Sherman Minton Bridge. Photo by Michael Clevenger.|
The other practice that served me well was keeping a spreadsheet to track my progress on projects. Some readers will recognize this as a practice from Paul Silvia's How to Write a Lot, a book that had a profound impact on my scholarly productivity in graduate school. And I have to say, since becoming a WPA, I love a good spreadsheet. Practice revived.
The final practice that I am not able to revive quite so effectively is setting aside two or three hours in the morning to write. The mornings are productive hours for me. By 4 or 5 in the afternoon, I'm done. But parenting and professing make sticking to an exactly identical morning schedule difficult for me. But as most productive writers know, blocking out small chunks of hours is crucial to complete projects. This morning, I'm not on campus, so I'm writing from 10 to 12 in my favorite coffee shop for working and then grabbing another block from 1 to 3 at a local public library that has also proven to be conducive to writing.
One bonus practice: forgiveness. There will be days when I don't have the chance to write. I don't beat myself up about that, especially since I do lots of other kinds of writing on those days--commenting on student work, producing reports and grant applications, and the like.
There's nothing profound here. (Is there ever?) This is mostly a reminder for myself that there are tried and true techniques that help me produce lots of quality academic writing. Now I guess I'd better open that Word document.