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Weekly wisdom: tips and tweaks #53 by Linda Levitt

Diorama_-_19_(8126284371)Do some warm ups! Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) begins 1 November, and there is no time like the present to start considering your goals. As our own Charlotte Frost wrote recently, you can set goals for word counts, time committed, or pages completed–whatever works best for you. Trying out different kinds of goals can help you decide what method will be most useful for AcWriMo and help you prepare to set goals for our big thirty-day commitment.

 

Announcing Academic Writing Month 2014

acwrimo1-01It’s back! Academic Writing Month 2014 starts 1st November!

If you’ve taken part before, you know the drill: get your reading done now, stock up on your favourite coffee [insert other productivity enhancement products here] and cancel what you can, because November means ‘write like there’s no December!’

 If you’re new to AcWriMo here’s the deal:

Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo for short) is a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November, it’s inspired by the amazing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but caters to the specific needs of academic writers at all stages of their career (from undergrads to the most distinguished of professors).

It’s hosted by the online resource, PhD2Published, and throughout the month we provide dedicated posts about academic writing and share literally thousands of tips via Twitter.

The idea is that you set yourself a writerly goal and get stuck in with all the information, advice and support you’ll get from others taking part. The month helps us:

  • Think about how we write,
  • Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,
  • Build better habits for the future,
  • And maybe – just maybe – get more done in less time!

And if you can get a lot done in November – a busy time for us academics all over – think how easy it’ll be to get writing done the rest of the year!

So here’s how you get involved….

There are 6 basic rules:

1. Decide on your goal. You might count words, hours put in or projects achieved – it’s up to you. But try and push yourself a bit.

2. Declare it! Sign up on the AcWriMo 2014 Writing Accountability Spreadsheet and fill in the sections on what you’d like to achieve and keep us updated on your progress. Being accountable is key to this working for you. You need to feel a bit of pressure to get the work done.

3. Draft a strategy. Don’t start AcWriMo without doing a bit of planning and preparation. Get some reading done, carve out time slots in your schedule to dedicate to writing, even buy your favourite coffee. Sort out whatever you’ll need to write, and get it done now, there won’t be time when November comes around.

4. Discuss your progress. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is really important! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? Do you need help? Do you want to share a writing triumph? (You’ll find most discussion about AcWriMo on Twitter using the #AcWriMo hashtag, but if Facebook is more your thing, go there. Or use your own blog to keep in touch. You can even write little updates you want to share in the spreadsheet.)

5. Don’t slack off. If you push yourself, you’ll quickly discover the tips and techniques that work best for YOU and that’ll save you even more time in the long-run.

6. Declare your results. It’s great to use the spreadsheet everyday (or as often as you can) to chart how you’re getting on, but even if you can’t do that, you MUST announce your results at the end of the month. Our writing community benefits not only from sharing in your achievements, but knowing what didn’t work and being reminded that, at the end of the day, we’re all human!

We will have a team of AcWriMo Ambassadors supporting you at every. And if you have time, blog posts are a great way to reflect on your writing strategies with your peers (we always gather all the posts created during AcWriMo season here)

Announcing AcWriMo 2013

acwrimo1-01It’s time to get planning your Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo) tasks for November 2013!

AcWriMo is a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November. It’s inspired by the amazing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but caters to the specific needs of academic writers at all stages of their career (from undergrads to the most distinguished of professors). It’s hosted by us – PhD2Published – and throughout the month we run dedicated posts about academic writing and share literally thousands of tips via Twitter.

The idea is that you set yourself a writerly goal and get stuck in with all the information, advice and support you’ll get from others taking part. The month helps us:

1)     Think about how we write,

2)     Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,

3)     Build better habits for the future,

4)     And maybe – just maybe – get more done in less time!

And if you can get a lot done in November – a busy time for us academics all over – think how easy it’ll be to get writing done the rest of the year!

So here’s how you get involved….

There are 6 basic rules:

1. Decide on your goal. You might count words, hours put in or projects achieved – it’s up to you. But try and push yourself a bit. (And if you need help counting our PhDometer app – the proceeds from which help fund this month-long writing extravaganza – was designed for just that!)

2. Declare it! Basically, just sign up on the AcWriMo 2013 Writing Accountability Spreadsheet and fill in the sections on what you’d like to achieve by the end of the month. Being accountable is key to this working for you. You need to feel a bit of pressure to get the work done. So sign up and add your goals as soon as you can.

3. Draft a strategy. Don’t start AcWriMo without doing a bit of planning and preparation. Get some reading done, carve out time slots in your schedule to dedicate to writing, even buy your favourite coffee. Sort out whatever you’ll need to write, and get it done now, there won’t be time when November comes around.

4. Discuss your progress. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is really important! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? Do you need help? Do you want to share a writing triumph? (You’ll find most discussion about AcWriMo on Twitter using the #AcWriMo hashtag, but if Facebook is more your thing, go there. Or use your own blog to keep in touch. You can even write little updates you want to share in the spreadsheet.)

5. Don’t slack off. As participant Bettina said of the first AcWriMo, you must ‘write like there’s no December!’ If you push yourself, you’ll quickly discover the tips and techniques that work best for YOU and that’ll save you even more time in the long-run.

6. Declare your results. It’s great to use the spreadsheet everyday (or as often as you can) to chart how you’re getting on, but even if you can’t do that, you MUST announce your results at the end of the month. Our writing community benefits not only from sharing in your achievements, but knowing what didn’t work and being reminded that, at the end of the day, we’re all human!

Last year, AcWriMo go so big that we’ve had to change things up a bit for 2013. We’re now excitedly presenting a team of AcWriMoAmbassadors who’ll all be on hand to help you and cheer you on throughout the month! They include:

Anna Tarrant, Charlotte Frost, Eljee Javier, Ingrid Marais, Jennifer Lim, Jodi Campbell, Linda Levitt, Lorry Perez, Melanie Boeckmann, Nadine Levy, PhDForum, Rachael Cayley, Sarah Rowe, Virginia Yonkers

There’s lots on the way, it’s going to be the biggest and best AcWriMo yet!

Your AcWriMo Party Bag!
With lots of love, Charlotte & Anna & Sam!

Announcing AcWriMo!

Remember AcBoWriMo, last year’s experiment in a month-long writing productivity drive? Well, it’s back, bigger and better than ever – but without the ‘Bo’!

The idea hails from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) an initiative designed to turn the whole of November into a month-long write-fest for current or would-be novelists. The idea is that you set yourself the task of writing 50 thousand words in November alone and bingo, you’ve got yourself a whole big chunk of novel!  In 2011 I decided academics should give something similar a go and, I can happily report, it went brilliantly!

For AcBoWriMo, I invited people to join me in wearing comfy clothes, drinking a lot of coffee, napping at strange times and seeing how close we could each get to writing 50 thousand words. I admitted at the time that it was an insane target, but that it wasn’t the word count that was the point. Rather, it was a bid to gather people together for mutual support in the, at times, painfully difficult and soul-crushingly lonely task of academic writing. In the last year alone, I’ve watched with awe and excitement as so many academic communities have grown and expanded on social media platforms like Twitter (examples include #phdchat, #ecrbook, #digped, #fycchat with plenty more to be found here). Not to mention that our own AcBoWriMo off-shoot (and collaboration with Jeremy Segrott), the regular live Twitter chat on academic writing, #AcWri, has co-ordinated a huge amount of valuable discussion. Nice work Anna and Jeremy!

So I decided it was worth giving it all another go – with some revisions…

This year’s event will focus on ALL aspects of academic writing, and will encourage participants to set their own (wild) goals. As a result of that, and the strength of the AcWri community, it will be called AcWriMo. Just like Craig David, I copped some flack for the ‘Bo!’ part. Although I never intended to promote the idea that an entire academic book could be written in a month, by calling the event Academic Book Writing Month, it seems I over-emphasised that part. But we still want you to join in on setting yourself some unrealistic targets and fighting alongside us to achieve them.

So, here are the rules for #AcWriMo 2012

1. Set yourself some crazy goals. Try and come up with some outcomes that would really push you beyond anything you ever thought possible. I always said 50,000 words is a bit of a nutty goal for academic writing in one month (it works out at something like 2,500 words a day and that’s just bonkers) but if you’re bonkers, go ahead and set that target. Otherwise, think about how much you are comfortably able to write a day and set yourself the task of regularly exceeding that amount. If you can manage 300 words a day then we want 400, if you can do 1000, then we want 1500 – something like that. Last year, a lot of people preferred setting themselves a time-based goal. They would try to write for so many hours a day or week and often used the Pomodoro technique to count units of productive time. If that’s your thing, go for it! How about sneaking in an extra Pomodoro a day? Or, look at all the writing tasks you’ve got to achieve over the next few months and decide to get a set amount of them done in November. In the US it’s job season, so how about you count your job-letter-writing-time. Or article drafts maybe?

2. Publicly declare your participation and goals. You can do this by adding to the comments of this very blog post, by tweeting using the hashtag #AcWriMo, or by writing on our PhD2Published Facebook page. Being accountable is key to this working for you as a way to push yourself, but if you want to silently take part, at least tell a friend who is likely to hold you to it. [edit: you can now also add your goals to and keep track of your progress with Jenn’s AcWriMo Accountability Spreadsheet – thanks Jenn!]

3. Draft a strategy. This is essential if you’re going to make a success of this. Sitting down to write without preparation is the first step towards being struck down with writer’s block. We’ll be blogging and tweeting lots of ideas to help you, so before you start, work out a strategy for how you’ll tackle your set tasks. For example, establish how much you’ll need to write a day, and on which days you can definitely do this. Offload as much other work as you can, and get in some supplies (we recommend stocking up on decent coffee of course). Think about how you work best and adopt that approach from the start – this means planning everything from comfy clothes to reading sessions.

4. Discuss what you’re doing. OK so being on Twitter and Facebook with us all day isn’t acceptable – you’ve got work to do – but checking-in at certain times is imperative! We want to know how you’re getting on? What is working for you and what isn’t? We want you to tell us all if you need help with something but also to celebrate your successes with us too. And nothing is TMI when it’s AcWriMo because that’s the point: sharing!

5. Don’t slack off. As participant Bettina said of AcBoWriMo, you must ‘write like there’s no December!’ But guess what? If you work super hard now, there’s going to be more December to go round. Remember how December usually creeps up on you and suddenly its Christmas Eve and you’ve failed to buy gifts or take time out for yourself. Well, if you put the work in now, there’ll be so much December you won’t know what to do with it all!

6. Publicly declare your results – and please be honest! As a writing community, we’ll all benefit from sharing in your achievements, but it is also good to see what works and what doesn’t. And if you don’t make your targets, you’ll still be achieving the selfless goal of making the rest of us feel more normal – so it’s a community win/win really.

We’re raring to go, we hope you are too?! 🙂

Writing Accountability Part 1 by Jennifer Lim: How It Works

Today’s post complements our new #AcWri project and is written by Jennifer S. H. Lim, a Computer Science graduate, currently working on her final submission of her dissertation as part of the fulfillment for her Master in Computer Science at University of Malaya, Malaysia. In the first of a two part series, Jenn introduces her now established academic writing initiative. She also blogs about her studious life and tweets as Studious Jenn @mystudiouslife.

I love writing. I use it to share ideas and information with the hope that it engages people in conversations that generate more ideas. That’s why I also love blogging, where I can write freely about topics that interest me whenever I like. However, academic writing is a different story. I still write topics that interest me but the need to actually write is more intense than merely writing a blog post. Academic writing projects are usually longer and more time consuming and no matter how much I love writing, when it comes to writing academically, the process can become overwhelming. Most of the time, writing just doesn’t happen at all. Procrastination ensues and then I just panic and write  last minute, which doesn’t meet any quality control.

This approach just doesn’t work well for me, especially at the point when I needed to write at least 10,000 – 30,000 words of a dissertation over a period of time. Although there was no set due date in that situation, I knew that the longer I delayed writing, the longer I would take to finish it. My biggest problem is that when there is no one to ‘force’ me to write I eventually procrastinate more. Hence, in order to succeed, I have to take actions. I need to be the one who ‘forces’ myself to write and I must be accountable for my own progress and success. This is the reason I started the Academic Writing Accountability initiative, where writing goals are shared in a spreadsheet and progress are updated daily. This initiative revolves around a Twitter community made up of anyone who is interested in academic writing and is willing to share their writing progress. Hopefully, this initiative helps as many people as possible to become more productive in writing to achieve their goals.

It all started when I was feeling ‘blocked’ while I was writing my last few dissertation chapters. I thought I couldn’t write because I didn’t have enough time to write for long hours due to my full-time job. When PhD2Published started the Academic Book Writing Month (#AcBoWriMo) project last November however, I was glad to join so many in the initiative to achieve my goal. My writing goal at that moment was to complete two chapter and by the time November ended I had completed Chapter 4 and started Chapter 5. I realized that such an initiative had actually helped me progress better even though I didn’t achieve my goal completely. I still continue to be in touch with the writing community.

Eventually, #AcWri was formed because there were still people (including me) who were keen to continue the writing initiative. One day, I was tweeting about how to improve academic writing productivity. After some tweets, I suggested using Google spreadsheet to share productivity progress so we can keep track of our own goal and progress online and at the same time let others  hold us accountable. Once the spreadsheet was created, a few of the #AcWri regulars joined the initiative by sharing their ultimate/daily goals and their updated daily progress.

Why writing accountability? I have a few beliefs that motivated me to start this initiative:

  1. Daily writing habit is essential for academic success and this habit can be cultivated through practice. This is the practice where you become the one to ‘force’ yourself to write daily.
  2. Be accountable for your own writing by publicly sharing your writing goal: ultimate goal (i.e. complete a dissertation) and daily goal (i.e. write 500 words). By sharing your goal, all will know what you are trying to achieve and you are being hold accountable for achieving your goals.
  3. Productivity will increase when it is being measured or monitored. By keeping a record of what you have done, it’s good for reflecting and planning to improve your productivity.
  4. Peer support is the best motivation in academic writing. Knowing you do not struggle alone in the writing process is helpful.

Does accountability in writing work for everyone? The answer will vary among individuals but most importantly, you can just give it a try and see for yourself. It works wonderfully for me. My ultimate goal of completing dissertation chapters and a journal article was achieved using this initiative. Regardless of what you choose to do, be sure it works for you in achieving your goals. If you have any other ideas about increasing writing productivity, I would love to hear from you.