Some thoughts on #AcWriMo

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I had meant to publish this on November 1 but essay marking got in the way. Which, I guess, is appropriate for a post about struggling to find the time to write.

I’m almost ashamed to admit that I have yet to enjoy a successful AcWriMo. Far from managing the vast swathes of academic writing that many seem to achieve during the month of November, I have succumbed to the realities of what I have perceived to be as more pressing commitments. I fear this year will be no different. With a looming viva voce examination, a conference two weeks later, and several job applications due, my chances of a highly productive November dedicated to producing reams of academic writing seem limited. Accordingly, it was with some trepidation that I signed up for this year’s AcWriMo, which began on Sunday.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of AcWriMo. For the last two years I have enjoyed and benefitted from the sense of community that the event fosters. Furthermore, the opportunity presented by AcWriMo for learning about the task and craft of academic writing is also unparalleled. Nowhere else will you find people talking so often and at such length about #acwri as during this month. As a historian of process, this renders AcWriMo particularly seductive.

So why have I consistently failed to reach my AcWriMo targets?

Crucially, I feel that my approach to AcWriMo has just been wrong. My Novembers have not been uncharacteristically busy. Yet I have gotten it into my head that for reasons x and y, my November has no time for AcWriMo. However, it would be the same for any other month of the year. Very few academics have the luxury of putting aside November to only write. Many, like myself, will have important pedagogical and administrative commitments that all too often get in the way of academic writing. And that is the very point. AcWriMo, in my opinion, isn’t really about producing the 50,000 words that participants in NaNoWriMo aspire to write. Instead, the month is about breaking and changing habits, making time for academic writing, no matter how few words, or how short a period of time you can dedicate to it.

Accordingly, for this year’s AcWriMo I have decided to lower my expectations. Unlike last year, I don’t have a detailed plan for how I will write a draft of a book and two journal articles, all the whilst marking essays, preparing for my viva, and writing a conference paper. What I do have, however, is something much simpler: the desire to get into a habit of writing everyday. No specific word-count to aim for, just a shift in my working habits to make some time for daily writing. I will let you know how I get on with this in a few months.

I’m lucky that my December is actually (relatively) open. Whilst I will presumably be dealing with thesis corrections and completing several job applications, teaching will have finished and I will have much more time for acwri. I’m hoping to capitalise on the good habits I began in November, so that (what-some-call) DecWriMo can be the ambitious month of academic writing that I’ve been waiting for. But it will be those good habits that I started in November that will be the key to success in this. Not every month will be December: many more will look like November. And that is where my successes with this year’s AcWriMo will be most crucial.

For more information on AcWriMo and how to sign up, see PhD2Published:


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