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Week 2. Letting go of the idea that 'you should write this way' and just doing what works now

So this was a good week for writing, I had a paper accepted Monday and submitted a different paper today. I also spent the first 3 days of the week doing a systematic literature review for my next paper which I’m quite excited about. Yet at times I still have that sense that I haven’t worked hard enough or met my aim to ‘write for 2 hours a day’.

I tried out 2 of Goodson’s exercises: recording your writing sessions (Exercise 5) and reading about writing for 10 minutes at the beginning of a writing session (Exercise 6). Goodson makes some nice recommendations for what to include in your writing log (not just the time you start and finish writing, but minutes spent, what you accomplished, next steps and how you felt). It has been nice to record time spent on writing just as a reminder that you may have actually accomplished something - especially on those days when you feel like the whole day has been spent on admin, emails or meeting students. For those that know me, the latter I already (love to) do so it was easy to ‘add’ this to my academic writing tool kit.

I had meant to keep going with Exercise 3 (5 minute timers, separating generative writing from editing) and building on Exercise 4 (reorganising generative pieces around key/common sentences) but it just didn’t fit with where I was in the writing process. This was for 2 reasons. Firstly, it felt necessary to get myself up to date with literature (since my PhD was finished) and while I do wish that I spent some time getting more of my ideas down for an introduction, I really enjoyed HAVING THE TIME to do a systematic review of the literature! Secondly, much of my week was doing quite final editing, making these exercises on generative and getting words down less relevant. Again, this made me feel like a failure because I was not writing new words, even though I was spending more than 2 hours a day focused and working on papers.

Exercise 6 did help me get over this some though. I took heart from reading Pat’s blog this week that was a review of another book on ‘how successful academics write’. From her reading of this text, Pat emphasises that we, as writers, may ignore advice that we should ‘write in a certain way, at certain intervals, [and] for a certain length of time’. Instead we can choose to do what works best for us. That is going to be my takeaway for the week. This week I did practice 2 of Goodson’s exercises, felt relatively focused when I was working on papers and made a lot of progress – I should celebrate that and not beat myself up because I should have done more practice of separating generative writing and editing.

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