It’s Finally Available: The
Academic Writing Club Gift Certificate!
Give the gift of peace of mind . . .
Now you can give (or ask those who love you to give you) a
gift certificate to the Academic Writing Club. You can give 1, 4, or
12 sessions, each consisting of 4 weeks of membership in the Academic Writing
To learn more, go to (or tell your loved ones to go to): http://writinggift.notlong.com
give this hint
page (a pdf) to someone who loves you!
Write or Rest During Your break? Here’s a Plan!
Aaah – The
holiday break. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s
time to sail away to an exotic location*, or more likely to collapse and then
But many academics are torn about whether and how much to write during the
holidays. On the one hand, they’re exhausted from the semester,
and need a rest. They want to spend time with family and friends. Yet
they know that the holiday break may be the best time to get some writing done.
As usual, I’m talking about the long-term writing projects that must be
done in order to advance your career – either finishing your dissertation
or writing articles/books towards tenure or promotion. These are the
projects that get pushed to the back burner because their completion really
only matters to you.
Write or Rest -- How about a Compromise?
Which should you do during your break -- write or rest? Well, here’s
a compromise plan (with a 9-step or 10-step option) that has worked for many
Give yourself some time off. There’s no point in
being unrealistic and deciding to force yourself to work when you’re
exhausted, unless you have a grant proposal deadline or something of the
sort. The reason for not forcing yourself is that no matter what you
decide to do, you probably won’t do it, and then you won’t
fully enjoy your time off because of the guilt.
Decide several days ahead
of time on which day you’re going
to start writing, and put that in your calendar. You can
also decide which days you will and won’t work and write those days
down. By doing this, you will be more likely to bypass the repeating “I’ll
start tomorrow” syndrome.
While you’re at it, if you can stand
this degree of regimentation, write
down what time you’re going to write each day. In
general, especially if you’re staying with family or friends, first
thing in the morning works the best, for two reasons. First, you’re
more likely to actually do it, before other interesting distractions come
your way. Two, you won’t spend all day dreading and avoiding
the writing time that is waiting for you. For some people, there
is a third reason – you may work best in the morning. If only
that were true for me.
Decide how much time to spend writing each
is the biggie -- it will determine your success in following through on
the entire plan.
Note: When I discuss writing in this context,
only to writing, editing, revising, or in some cases, statistical analysis. I’m
not referring to time spent reading and researching. Those are necessary
tasks, but people do not tend to avoid them as they do the actual writing. Hence
Before I suggest what to do in this step, I’d like to explain
why this is so important.
If you’re like some people who have long days
of vacation ahead of them and who want to accomplish a lot, you will eagerly
say to yourself, “I’ll
have all day, so I’ll plan on 3 solid hours of writing in the morning
and 4 hours in the afternoon.” Here’s what happens to
the majority of these people:
- They spend miserable days staring at their computer,
with long “warm-ups” of
checking emails, reading their favorite political bloggers, or looking up
Britney Spears’ latest weight, followed by anxious staring at a blank
page, followed by a break involving checking emails, writing emails, and
playing computer Scrabble (yes, that’s my latest – there’s
an app for that).
- They can’t believe at the end of a long day how little
they actually wrote, if anything.
- After a couple of days of this, they give
up on writing during their break. This
is not a conscious decision, but one that is made by default, gradually,
as they find a “good reason” each day that they can’t
work that day.
- They do not enjoy their holiday break at all, because they
know at the bottom of their heart that they are making a big mistake
by not writing.
- At the end of the break they are completely guilt-ridden, panicked
and mortified that they have accomplished nothing.
How do you avoid this terrible fate when carrying out your own writing plan? There
are two options here, and which option you follow depends mostly on how much
writing you need to get done.
Option 1: Follow this option if you have a busy holiday schedule,
don’t have a looming deadline, or probably wouldn’t tend to write
at all over the holidays without this plan. It also works well if you’ve
Option 2: Follow this option if you either must write a fair
amount (based on deadlines, such as grant proposals, book editors demands,
or demanding dissertation advisors) or you are the rare bird that can write
for more than an hour a day when you don’t have a deadline hanging over
- Decide the previous day what you will specifically be working on. I’m
assuming that you’ve done any reading or research that is needed in
order to write the next day. If you haven’t been writing for
a while, you might need to get your document ready and open.
- The previous day would also be a good time to find a timer, either at home
or on the Internet.
- Eliminate all possible distractions or the chance of interruptions (e.g.
email program off, sign on door, letting your family know that you won’t
be available for the next 15 minutes).
- Do NOT set a goal of number of pages written, or how much
of one section you will finish. Your only goal is to write for a certain
number of minutes.
- Set your timer for 15 minutes.
- Start writing, (or editing and revising, if you’re in that stage
of the project).
- When the timer goes off, STOP.
- For many of you, that is all that you will have time for that day. That’s
fine. You did more than you would have without this process, and you
may have more reading to do to prepare for your next writing session. Make
sure you write down what to start on tomorrow.
- If you feel like working a little more, set the timer for a 10 minute break,
then repeat steps 1) through 8).
- Steps1) through 4) follow steps for Option 1 above.
- Step 5) Set your timer for any amount of time up to 45 minutes.
- Steps 6) through 9) are the same as for Option 1.
- Step 10) Because you have a looming deadline, you will probably spend
more time writing. Always take as refreshing a break as you can – walk,
dance, make a snowman. Then after 10-15 minutes you can go back to your
writing. Repeat this as often as you can throughout the day. Ideally,
you can do 2 or 3 productive writing sessions, then do some reading and preparing
for your next writing session, then go off and enjoy your day.
The aim for both of these options is to:
- Have a reasonable, doable, time-oriented writing goal
that you won’t put off because it fills you with dread.
- Allow you to accomplish something during the winter break.
- Allow you guilt-free time each day to enjoy with family and friends, or
to take a long nap.
Enjoy your time off!
I hope that with this simple plan, you’ll be able to actually do what
seems impossible: get some writing done AND relax, rest, recreate, rejuvenate,
and enjoy the break!
* Digital painting, "Anna Near Naples," by Gina Hiatt
© 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 www.academicladder.com
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Kathryn successfully defended her dissertation. Congratulations,
Quote of the Month
“A vacation is what you take when you can't take what
you've been taking any longer.”
Dissertation Writing: A Streamlined Process from Choice of Topic to Final
Text, by Peg Boyle Single
Need practical advice on the concrete steps for dissertation writing, including
how to select a topic, take notes, keep track of citations, construct outline
and develop regular writing habits? This book provides all that for social
science and humanities students. Make sure to check out the exercises that
she provides for students in writing groups (like us, she highly recommends writing
Buy it at amazon
Blog Post of the Month
Rick Reis, a Stanford professor who publishes the Tomorrow’s
Professor Blog, was so taken with Peg Boyle Single’s book (see “Book
of the Month,” above), that he published
a posting by that author on the development of her book. I found
out that her dissertation advisor was Robert
Boice. Need I say more?
TA-DA is an interactive CD resource guide that gives you a complete roadmap to plan, prepare and finish your dissertation in less time. It guides you through obstacles step-by-step, including valuable tips for new ABD's. Get it here.
You Chosen Your Dissertation Topic Yet? If not, check out this new
offering from TaDa!
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