I am on a deadline which is fast approaching – a little thing called a thesis needs to be submitted within the next few months and I still have what seems like loads of writing to do. So in order to get some progress on the writing that needs to be done I decided I needed some accountability and motivation and signed up for Academic Writing Month, or #AcWriMO for short, which happens every November.
My goals for the month are in two parts. Firstly, complete chapters 3, 4 and 5 of the thesis. Each chapter is at a different stage of writing with chapter 3 around 75% of the way done, chapter 4 a published paper in need of being made “fit” as a thesis chapter, whilst chapter 5 needs the most work with only the analysis completed. That said, chapter 5 is part of the same empirical study as chapter 4, being a development of a specific theme which I presented at conference. As I presented a literature review as part of that conference presentation I think I will be able to utilise some of it as part of the chapter introduction so it is not as bleak as first appears. My second goal: to write for 6 hours a day every week day. The aim here was to get something of a more regular writing habit. Simple!
Now the first week is over I think it worthwhile for me to take stock and reflect on how it has been and what I have learned about my writing practice so far. Any lessons I can take from week one may make the thesis progress a little more quickly.
So, the first notable point of the week is that I have not achieved in week 1 what I had hoped I would – namely around 3000 words over 30 hours of actual writing work. The number of words written amounted to around 1000 in a total of 10 hours; both considerably under the target of words/time that I set my self. However, based on the actual words written and time put in, if I had managed the 30 hours planned then I should have been able to have produced the target number of words, namely 3000. And, 3000 words should have about finished chapter 3. Another point of reflection is that when I signed up for this writing challenge I set my goals on the accountability spreadsheet where others had stated theirs. Some people had set higher goals than me, namely more words in less writing time, whilst others less. This did not bother me, then. But tuning into the #AcWriMo twitter feed brings me nuggets of “2000 words done today” or similar and then I start to stress. I see that there are others in similar straits to me, not achieving what they set as their targets, but of course it is the achievers and over-achievers that press home my lack of progress. But, I need to keep in mind that provided I can get my writing hours in I should be near to target. Finally, my writing environment is important. The actual writing hours put in and the words written were completed at my desk at home on my desktop PC. The hours not put in were taken up with another (equally pressing) task that of elder caregiving. Caregiving takes me out of my personal writing space away from my PC and (when I get time to work on my thesis) onto my laptop, that is literally on my lap. I do not have a desk or large area where I can work so I work from the sofa. The lesson here is that if I can schedule my writing hours actually at a desk I should be more productive. This week I have no caregiving scheduled so I should be able to spend all my writing hours at a desk/pc set up, hopefully with better results.
Reflecting on the points last week’s writing raised, it all appears very negative. However, there are lessons to be learned here that can be put into practice for this week. Namely:
- If I achieve the target number of hours I should write the target number of words.
- I should not compare myself with others – my goals are my own.
- I need an appropriate writing space, such as a PC/desk set up.
Stated so plainly these points seem so simple, but in the midst of the working week with so many demands on time the simple things tend to get forgotten. The message here is clear – get the writing hours in to achieve the word goal, do not compare myself with others, and work at a desk.
On this positive note, we’ll see what week 2 brings!