I’m 1/3 of the way through AcWriMo 2014, and I thought I’d give an update on my progress so far. (I laid out my goals for the month in my last post, but to quickly review, my goals are: (1) revise my failed NSF grant proposal, and (2) draft a conference paper.)
- Setting out specific, measurable goals for each session. Often, when I’m stuck on a hard problem, I tend to procrastinate by laser-focusing on minutiae. This is what derailed me last year in AcWriMo. This time, I’m setting goals for the week (usually on Sunday evenings), as well as for each day. (I keep track of these in Evernote, as part of my weekly to-do list). I set the following day’s goal based on my weekly goals and where I ended up that day. That’s made it easier for me to get the challenging work done, rather than just putzing around on paper for an hour.
- Being flexible with my schedule. As department chair, I don’t always have complete control over my schedule. Things come up, and I don’t always have the luxury of saying no to meetings (or crises) that happen to fall during the time I’ve blocked out for writing. Rather than despairing, I’ve done a good job finding other pockets of time to write if my original block of time doesn’t work out, and of re-prioritizing things so that the writing gets done.
- Writing when I have no clue. I’m in a challenging part of my research—the problems are harder and the path forward is not exactly clear. My goal for the first week was just to write as if I already had the answers. The simple act of doing so clarified a lot of the problems that got me stuck and helped me to think about solutions more productively. In one writing session, I was able to develop the framework for an entire simulation, which I am now starting to code and which, if it works, should answer a lot of the outstanding questions in this project. Yay!
- Life events beyond my control. Our daycare was unexpectedly closed for most of last week, we don’t have backup child care, and my spouse had an even crazier week scheduled than I did. Guess who had to scramble to take care of the kiddos? I tried to squeeze writing in when I could, and I did ok except for one especially crazy day where no writing happened.
- End of the term craziness. My institution is on trimesters, and our fall term ends right before Thanksgiving. Classes end next Wednesday. Everyone is freaking out and everyone wants something from me RIGHT NOW. Prioritizing in this environment is challenging.
- Damn kiddos sharing their germs. Thank god for cold medicine, which is the only thing that kept me halfway functional yesterday.
What’s keeping me motivated and productive
- Slow and steady progress. I’ve accomplished something concrete each session, and more importantly, something I can build upon. The next step is always clear, so it’s easy to pick up where I left off the next day.
- Ambient noise generators. A student in my first-year seminar shared A Soft Murmur as a design example in class one day. After class, another student showed me Noisli, another background noise generating site. I generally listen to music while I work, but I’m really enjoying working with these sites in the background. (My current favorite combo on A Soft Murmur is waves + birds + a very light singing bowl, while on Noisli it’s forest + stream. I also like the coffee shop sounds.)
- The support of local participating friends. The fabulous @adriana_estill and @mijavdw are participating too, along with another good friend and colleague who’s “stealth-participating” (i.e without the public accountability). It’s hard to slack when you don’t want to let your friends down!
- Twitter! I love reading the #AcWriMo tweets. Some days I read them after I’ve met my goal, but some days I read them before writing if I find my motivation lagging. It’s awesome to be part of this academic writing community.
So I think I’d give myself a B+/A- so far in AcWriMo. A solid effort, with some room for improvement. Here’s hoping the momentum continues for the rest of the month!