Summer 2012 Writing Group

Welcome! If you’d like to join this academic writing group for the summer, leave a comment.  Specify your summer goal, if you can. if you’re not sure what that is yet, you can join now and decide in the next couple weeks. In general, it works best if you can have a single project goal for the session. (This is not a hard and fast rule,  but do consider that focusing on one project can be beneficial for you and for the group.) Commit to posting every  week (excluding vacations; see below), even if you haven’t accomplished anything. (To quote Dame Eleanor, “We’ve all had bad weeks.  Just face it and move on.”)

Here are the details:

Dates: May 14-August 24 (15 weeks)

Requirements: Check in weekly in the comments of the weekly post (see below for vacations, etc.), and comment on other people’s check ins.

Check in times: Friday morning-Sunday evening (US-Pacific Standard Time)

Check in structure: Please include the following

  1. Goal: The past week’s goals
  2. Accomplished: What you accomplished during the week
  3. Analysis: An analysis of what worked/what didn’t
  4. Next Goal: The next week’s goals
  5. Next Check In (optional): Your next check in date, if you’re planning to miss any number of weeks

Drop policy: If you don’t check in for three weeks (unless you specify an absence) you will be dropped.

Each check-in post will have a theme (I’ll check in in the comments, like everyone else), which you’re welcome to respond to in your comment.

I’ll post a preliminary group member list on Thursday, May 10, and you can specify there what your first weekly goal will be. If you can’t ramp up for a couple of weeks, feel free to postpone your first goal. Just be sure to check in with “no goal yet.” I’ll be happy to add people to the group through June 1.

If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message through the contact tab above.

Now, let’s get some summer writing done!

–Your humble host, Amstr

The Downside of Positive Feedback

I just got back from a four day trip during which I spent 3+ hours meeting with my dissertation advisors (separately). They were encouraging. Very encouraging. My primary advisor’s advice amounted to “Keep going. Stop researching and just write. If there’s something you’re thinking of leaving for later, don’t; do it now. You’re almost done.” My secondary advisor liked what I was doing in the chapter I showed to him and mentioned a number of editors I should send chapters to in order to get a book contract.

All of this is wonderful. Fabulously wonderful. Almost too wonderful. It makes me want to rest on my laurels.

(Not an actual nor accurate depiction of me in laurels.)

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly appreciate the laurels. But the temptation to think that this praise is enough pulls at me.

So today I’m choosing to hear what my advisors think but didn’t say: I have the writing skills and stamina to finish. I know what it means to work well. I know how to find the motivation I need. I still have a lot of work to do, and I know what that work is.

Today I choose to take pleasure in the praise, to take pleasure in completing a footnote, to take pleasure in a well-wrought sentence, and to do one day’s work that will move me closer to completion.

Stuck Writing

This morning I’m stuck writing in two ways. First, I have a deadline Thursday to turn in a completed draft of a dissertation chapter along with all my other completed dissertation work. I’m over halfway done, and I have three days left to write. Second, I’m beginning to think that my whole plan for the chapter (and maybe for the dissertation) is stupid. Boring. Clear but painful. I can’t get unstuck from having to write, but I can get unstuck so I can write.

Solution #1: Find another (encouraging) reader. My husband (a computer scientist) graciously offered to read what I’ve got so far and to tell me that it was good and that I should keep writing. When having someone read a partial draft, it’s important to specify that you just want a quick read with a thumbs up at the end, and maybe a few comments about what’s working in the draft. This is not the time for critical comments or grammar corrections. So be sure you ask for what you want.

Solution #2: Take a shower. Much research has shown that have a spark of inspiration, the brain must be flooded with detail and then must relax for all the cognition to happen that leads to insight. (This article is a good one on the subject.) So when you get stuck, take a walk, take a shower, do some dishes. Find an activity that takes little concentrated effort, and let your brain do the rest.

These surely aren’t the only options, but they worked for me this morning. My husband thought the draft was the best early draft he’d read of mine, and in the shower I figured out a couple key things I can include that will be a logical next step in the draft.

Disaster averted!

What do you do when you’re stuck?