By Camille Gamboa, US PR Team
I know based on first-hand experience that finding time to work on a research paper, thesis, or dissertation can be the hardest part about the academic writing process. In addition to my job here at SAGE, I am also “finishing up” my graduate work at a nearby university (while I completed all of my coursework a little while back, I have yet to complete that one staple document that will actually get the degree in my hands and onto my CV). Though I have all but one chapter completed (and have been at this stage for some time), I find it almost impossible to make thesis-writing a priority on my never-ending list of things to do. If any of you academic writers out there are like me, setting personal deadlines and mentally blocking out time in my schedule to write are just about as effective as taping a box of cookies shut to keep my fingers out. The tape is easily cut (or ripped), and deadlines are often overlooked as more pressing concerns take precedence over my bigger academic goals.
In order to help out any present and future academic writers (and to help out myself…a little bit of, well, vanity blogging here), I’ve compiled a list of top tips for making time to write from some published professionals:
- Identify Roadblocks to Writing: Patricia Goodson, author of Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing, suggests making a list of distractions that keep you from writing as well as a list of factors that keep you motivated. Then, develop strategies to keep the distractions from taking over. For example, “If you’re always tempted to check your e-mail during a writing session, or if you feel you can’t begin to write before you check your e-mail, try turning it off when you sit down to write. Allow yourself to check it only after you’ve completed your writing session for the day.” She then suggests using it as a reward for a writing session well-done.
- Write More to Write More: This may seem obvious, but once you get in the habit of writing (any type of writing will do), you will find it easier to write. As Allan A. Glatthorn, author of Publish or Perish: The Educator’s Imperative wrote, “Just the act of writing seems to make the writing go easier.” So if you’re finding it hard to find time to do academic writing, you may want to consider doing some free writing about whatever comes to mind without worrying about rules to keep your writing muscles warm and to make your other writing time more effective.
- “Keep Out”: as Patricia Goodson suggests, don’t hesitate to write a note on your office door telling others to come back later, put on an e-mail away message, or have your phone calls sent straight to voicemail. Making writing time “sacred” is the only way to stay on task.
- Postpone Procrastination: Dr. Meggin McIntosh, provided 15 tips for avoiding procrastination on the blog The Academic Ladder. Among my favorites are to actually open up the document (a small step for the mouse, but a large step for the writing process), always capture an idea when it comes to you (that way you are never really starting a project, just continuing one), and to use a timer so that there are NO questions about when writing time ends and e-mailing/chores/facebook/etc. time begins.
- Take a Writing Vacation (not to be confused with a vacation from writing): This one may seem a little bit extreme, but one of my grad school mentors and an experienced academic writer once told me that one effective strategy for her dissertation writing was to devote an entire weekend to working in a new and different environment. She left her phone at home, booked a cheap hotel room, packed up her books and laptop, and spent 24 hours writing. Distraction Free.
If any of you experienced writers and researchers have tips to share, please leave a comment to let me…I mean us…know:). And check out more publishing tips from SAGE Connection by clicking here.