Friday, January 02, 2009

 

Oops, I Did It Again!

by LuAnn Schindler

So...imagine my surprise when I check Google calendar this evening at 7-something and see that I am The Muffin's blogger today. Oops! When I checked Google calendar last week, it wouldn't load in my browser, and I figured I would check it later. Combine that with the hectic holidays and guess what, the surprise is on me. It happens. I'm only human.

Do you find yourself doing the same thing when it comes time to write? Do daily tasks and life's hurdles stand between you and scheduled writing time? It happens to me all the time, but I schedule office hours and for the 99 percent of the time, I stick to it. It isn't always easy, especially since my husband works on his family's dairy farm, I substitute teach (I start a six-week stint on January 5), I coach competitive speech (at the high school I taught at for five years before I got married...and it is 60 miles from our house), and we strive to find "our" time.

The important thing is that no matter how busy you find yourself, you must make time to write. This is especially true if you depend on writing to help pay the bills! Five minute spurts will become my normal routine in just a few days, but with careful planning and a supportive husband, I will still meet my deadlines.

And now, I'm off to open presents with my grandson and two of my daughters. They just arrived for our holiday celebration, and tomorrow brings the final festivities for this holiday season.

I need the break! And then, back to writing.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, July 11, 2008

 

Are You Setting Yourself Up To Procrastinate?

Although written to help those with academic writing goals, such as dissertations, theses, and publishing, the ideas in this article apply to the rest of us too. Read on to find out an easy and painless way to increase your writing output. I related to many of the excuses, but I'll try it if you will!

--MP



"How can I stop procrastinating?"

This is by far the most frequent question that I get from graduate students and professors. As a dissertation and tenure coach, I’ve come to realize that everyone in academia, whether writing a dissertation, completing an article, or doing research, struggles with procrastination. Why is this so prevalent in such a well-educated, intelligent population?

You've Got the Wrong Attitude

Your belief system is what may be standing in the way. Most academics cling to the belief that they must set aside large chunks of time, do a lot of preparation, and be in the proper frame of mind to be able to write.

What this means is that when you finally sit down to write, it's going to be an unpleasant marathon. You have placed such importance on this writing session that you feel anxiety about it living up to your expectations. And you know it's going to be difficult. After all, there are thorny issues you haven't addressed, articles you haven't read or reread, and a lack of coherence to your thinking. You need to solve those problems. And if you don't do it now you'll be quite disappointed in yourself.

How unpleasant! And how counterproductive!

What Should You Believe Instead? Or "Oh, The Irony!"

Research by Robert Boyce actually shows that first and second-year professors who participated in a study on writing productivity were able to turn out more publishable pages in a year by

• Writing 30 minutes a day
• Only writing on workdays
• Shoehorning that writing into small gaps in their busy schedules

The difficult part, it turns out, was convincing these professors to try this low-key method in the first place. Ironically, they all insisted that the only way to get real work done was to do it in the marathon way that I described above.

The second irony was that when Boyce actually measured the amount that they were writing per week (before the intervention,) it was less than 30 minutes per week! This was much less than their retrospective reports of how much time they had been spending writing.

The third irony was that those who most adhered to the idea that you must write in large doses were the least productive.

The fourth irony was that although these professors considered writing a private activity, they did best when they were accountable to someone for maintaining their 30-minute writing habit.

Do It Already!


So what's stopping you from learning from these professors and writing a small amount each day?

Here are typical excuses:

• It's just not rewarding writing in small amounts. I feel like I've gotten nothing accomplished.
• I have a big issue to work out. It will take more time than 30 minutes.
• I feel guilty if I don't work more each time.
• I'll never complete my dissertation/paper/research project at that pace.
• I've waited until it's too late and I can't afford the luxury of that small amount of time per day.
• It just doesn't feel right.
• I've got more time than that, I should be putting all my time to good use.
• It's so overwhelming that I don't know where to start, and by the time I figure it out my 30 minutes will be up.

My answer to those responses? Bull! Except for the emergency deadline, there is no reason not to try this technique. Give it time to see if it works for you. If you're like every other academic I've worked with, you will resist the idea. I suggest that the more resistant you are, the more problem you've probably had with procrastination in the past.

An Action Plan

Try it for a week. Select a time each day, preferably not the evening unless you're a night owl, and write for 30 minutes, without email, reading or other distractions. Don't listen to the voices in your head saying you "should be getting more done," or "you should be writing more than this." I'll bet at the end of the week you'll be pleasantly surprised at your output, and pleased with the increasing ease with which you can sit down to write. You’ll start to see progress on your dissertation or article and maybe come to believe that you will finish one day.

Furthermore, don't forget about being accountable to someone. Let someone else know that you're going to be doing daily writing. Perhaps you can find a writing buddy, or someone in your dissertation group. Or join one of my coaching groups – our listservs allow for lots of accountability during the week! My membership site, CafeAcademia.com (stay tuned,) will have a place for finding writing buddies.

Don't forget, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got. Start setting yourself up for success starting right now!

© Gina Hiatt, PhD. Gina is a dissertation and tenure coach. She helps academics, from grad students wondering about their dissertation topic to faculty members who want to maintain a high level of research and writing, to reach their goals more quickly and less painfully. Get Gina's free assessments & ezine at http://www.academicladder.com

source: www.Isnare.com

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, January 18, 2008

 

It May Take Too Much Time

I worry about the amount of time that good writing takes, sometimes letting it stop me from writing anything at all. Will trying to put together this potential essay be a waste of time, I'll wonder? Won't crafting that marketable article or story take up too much time, I'll think. I'm not the fastest writer. Rather, I should say, at this point it often takes a lot of rewrites to get it right.

Looking through an old folder recently, I came across a heavily marked draft of some work, a piece of writing now finished, which I am proud of in its final form. I forgot how much work had gone into that project until I saw evidence of all the editing. Some writing just takes a lot of pondering and polishing, and viewing those particular pages reminded me that the effort in that case was well worth it.

Writers will freely admit they don't bang out first drafts that are ready to go out into the world as soon as the ink dries. Therefore, there is no need to expect perfect first pages. A certain amount of changes will be needed. If you need a lot of time to get a piece right, I now tell myself, then so be it. When it's done, you will have something in hand you're pleased with, even if it took some effort, perhaps more effort than it might take someone else.

Good writing takes time. It’s okay to create many drafts before there is something worthy to show. No one sees the process! No one knows about the earlier drafts! What matters is that you end up with a finished product that's good--no matter how long it took you to get there.

Plus, as Ernest Hemingway said, "It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way."

-MP

Labels: , , , , ,