Wednesday, November 11, 2015

AcrWriMo #3: the Funnel

Some people like to work on one project at a time, seeing it through to completion and then starting the next one. While focusing on one thing at a time can be an effective way to work, there are many advantages to thinking about your writing as a funnel:

______________________________ (here's all the ideas for projects you have)
   _________________________ (here are the projects you're collecting research on)
         ___________________ (here are the projects you're drafting)
                ___________ (here are the projects you're revising)
                         ___ (here are the projects you're submitting)

One nice thing about the funnel is that when you submit, you can always turn your attention to the revisions you need to make for the next thing, which keeps you from agonizing about the article or chapter you just send off, as Dr. Clay Spinnozi pointed out in our publishing workshop. You are always submitting because you are always writing!

Another advantage of the funnel is that you know what your next project is instead of casting around for ideas.  You might consider writing down all the ideas you have at the top of the funnel somewhere. This is especially nice when you're revising your dissertation: keep a list of ideas for the book version, and you can cut them from the dissertation without feeling bad.

Now not everyone is as easily distracted as I am, but I personally really enjoy being able to shift between the projects in the funnel. "A change can be as good as a rest," as my grandpa used to say. When I'm burned out from revising an abstract theory-heavy section of a chapter, I can move to the more concrete practice of coding responses from another project. If I just can't outline a new chapter right now, maybe I can edit the bibliography of an article. If I sit down to do my sustained writing and I just really don't want to do one task, I can coax myself into writing by beginning with another task *

* This task has to be in the funnel, though: writing long comments on a YouTube mash-up video or crafting the perfect response to a Facebook argument doesn't count.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

AcWriMo Advice #1: Environment

There are a lot of people who will tell you can you (read: they) can only write in the ideal place: quiet, surrounded by books, often in an oak-and-leather study with filtered afternoon light. Sounds great, but that's not the only place that can be effective for you. Stacey Pigg (2014) found that one of the great unteachable skills for undergraduate writers is learning where you personally can focus. Because you can be so flexible as a graduate student, you're fortunate to have a wide range of options: coffee shops, libraries, home, etc. Try a couple of these and find what works best for you.

But also recognize that just as there are different kinds of writing, there are different kinds of writing environments. For example, I'm sitting at the reception desk of Austin Pets Alive! which is a noisy place where I'm frequently interrupted; it's a bad place for be to do the sustained, focused- writing on a book chapter, but it's great for grammar-checking the proofs my editor sent me and writing you all an email. I'll do the quiet work in my office later today. Just because you're stuck in a dentist's waiting room or there's a tornado warning or you left the book you need at home doesn't mean you can't write: you might just have to do a different kind of writing.

You might also consider what goes into a writing environment besides just the space around you. You might invest in noise-canceling headphones or earplugs, or use an ergonomic chair or put your laptop on a cabinet to stand and write, as some of my colleagues have.  Environment also might include digital resources--do you need to turn off the internet or disable Facebook or set your phone to airplane mode?

Ultimately you can be successful in any place where you can write. I wrote a big chunk of my dissertation in the Walmart auto waiting room because it was the only place close to my house that was open in the very early hours. I put on headphones and hunkered down and no one asked me if I was waiting on a tire change.