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6 weeks to establish 'good writing habits'

Summer writing before students return!

Over the summer I’m trying to establish good writing habits. It’s hard. Really hard.

I had a lot of June on holiday with family visiting, and it was difficult to get into any rhythm for writing then, now the summer seems to be quickly slipping by and I desperately want to submit two papers from my PhD before the semester starts in September (one is probably more realistic and yet at times also seems unlikely!).

I have a few different strategies to jump start this summer of writing. First I have been arranging with friends one on one writing sessions because I found this extremely helpful during my PhD (a period when I felt that I did have some good ‘writing habits’). While in the past I was all about the ‘academic writing groups’ (see my blog post) I’m finding writing with one other person is an easier way to protect time without having to expend energy on coordinating a larger group or ‘facilitating’ a session so that it does not fall away into a nice catch up. I have found writing groups especially effective because they commit you to writing and not being able to find some excuse to do something different (emails, admin, reading the news, cooking a big meal because you really need to eat if you are going to focus, having a nap because you’re a little too tired and would be a much better writer if you were, watching Netflix..).

I have also gone back to my favourite authors on (academic) writing, Pat Thomson, Anne Lamott (i.e. Bird by Bird), and new for me I’m trying out Goodson’s ‘50 exercises for paced, productive and powerful writing’. I have been enjoying Goodson’s book and I have been meaning to read it for a several years (Pat has recommended it in a few places). I like it because it provides some structure and guidance to practice and improve your writing skills – 50 exercises that should be tried usually for a week at least which means an entire year of learning and improving. We will see how that goes, for the moment I want to get in the habit of writing every day for 2 hours and to then continue this pattern when teaching begins and things get really crazy.

Yet, while both of these activities have helped, there are also days that it is a real struggle to actually write. So I thought perhaps I would also experiment with writing a blog over the summer of my attempts to motivate myself and form these good writing habits for the coming academic year. Perhaps it will encourage others to reflect, engage in a discussion about writing practice/process, or at least hold me a bit more accountable to my goal. That means 6 weeks of blogging about the exercises I’m trying from Goodson and any other ideas and reflections I have to jump start my writing.

Here we go, stay tuned… or let me know if you have any top tips! I'll post next week about what's worked and hasn't for me so far this summer.

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