#AcWri, #AcWriMo

Developing Writing Habits with #AcWriMo

Woah. It’s December 9th … where did the time go? It feels just like yesterday that I logged in to post my November #AcWriMo goals.

writing blockHere’s me reporting back after the month (Note: this month was extended as I took a bit of a hiatus over American Thanksgiving & #Friendsgiving) on my #AcWriMo GOAL(S):

1. Finish manuscripts in progress for journal submissions:
(a) ICS-Shared resources in CoP
(b) ER – Remedies for learners in MOOCs
(c) Cdn institutions use of Twitter
(d) IHE – social media governance
2. Edit and submit final version of NDSS chapter
3. Complete a draft of the full article for #edusocmedia SOTL systematic lit review publication.
4.  Draft of #advtech data & article on NACADA Clearinghouse/figshare.
5. Research methods & IRB for formal mentoring research project.
6. Outline article for peer review in MOOCs
7. #FashioningCircuits – data for another manuscript outside book chapter

Not bad, eh? Who knew that I just need to hone into #AcWriMo Rule No. 3:

Draft a writing strategy. Plan how to accomplish your goals. Organize your schedule for your uninterrupted #ShutUpAndWrite time. PLAN TO WRITE IN ADVANCE!

It’s SO true. If you don’t plan to write, you won’t actually write. Here was my overall strategy and plan for the month:

23641853985_c1f2571412_oTo make sure it happened, here are the strategic ways I ensured enough time to write:

  • Write EVERY day. This is hard. You are not always motivated to #AcWri every day — but it really helps you build a writing habit (21 days, right?). I am sure there are other items you can work on to fill the writing time, e.g. editing a manuscript, literature review search, organizing analysis, setting up project task lists, or organizing writing/research materials for your co-authors.
  • Determine the best time of day to write for you! For me, it was first thing in the morning between the hours of 6-10 am. These chunks of the day were for my “quiet writing” time. It could be late at night, or just after lunch. You decide.
  • Don’t check _______ before you start writing. For me the blank included e-mail, text messages, mobile, calendar invites, Twitter, RSS feeds, Facebook streams or news. I went right to the #acwri project that was up for that morning.
  • Block #ShutUpAndWrite time on your calendar (personal and work). Make it for 1 to 3 hours. Make appointments with yourself to write and KEEP THEM. I do this to reserve time on my calendar. This is a meeting for your writing productivity. (I do this with running & yoga as well — also very important appointments I keep).
  • Be an #AcWri Project Manager. Break your writing projects into smaller tasks. This will allow you to check off pieces of your writing, and motivate you as you make progress through your #acwri and research “to do” lists. (Bonus: Need a visual? Put it on a whiteboard in your office or remind yourself on your browser tabs – thanks Momentumdash!]
  • Log Your Time. This can be in your calendar notes, in a journal, or even an excel document — just to note the time in and out of writing. This helps to track when you were most productive, and what you worked on over the past week or month. If you need peer pressure, you could continue to log it here: #AcWriMo PUBLIC Accountability spreadsheet
  • Take A Day (or Two) Off. If you were VERY productive earlier in the week, it’s okay to break from the #acwri habit. Don’t burn yourself out from the writing flow. Or maybe come back to it later in the day if you’re not feeling it. #TreatYoSelf

The good news is I am still making progress on the #acwri goals not crossed off the list from November (and then some). Now that I’m armed with my #acwri plan, I will keep this writing pattern going strong for the winter break. With  ALL THE GRADING complete, nothing can stop me now. [Well perhaps a beach holiday might for a while, but I’m just adhering to #AcWriMo Rule No. 5]. Write on!

#phdchat, PhD, Reflections

The PhD: Troubles Talk… and Moan… and So On

As a PhD candidate, I am trying to be more cognizant  with my response when asked the following (common) questions:

  • “How’s your dissertation going?”
  • “When are you going to finish your PhD ?”
  • “Where have you been? I haven’t seen you in ages…”

phdFor those who are also “dissertating” like me, you understand how easy it is to offer a roll of the eyes, smile/nod combo, and “just great” to friends and family. When talking to fellow PhD candidates and scholarly researchers, we seem to be more open to dig right in to slag the our dragging timelines, cry about our progress, complain about our faculty support, identify dissertation distractions, and, of course, whine about the TIME we used or didn’t use productively.

I recently read an article by Dr. Inger Mewburn (a.k.a. The @ThesisWhisperer), who discussed such “troubling talk” among PhD candidates. Often it is the talk of troubles that brings PhD scholars together to form communities  of practice, like a learning network and/or support group. There has been a large growth in online blogging, tweeting, slidesharing, podcasting, and more from PhD and early career researchers. There’s an active online community that supports personal/professional development and sharing of resources.

One section in particular interested me as Inger shared her own experience with the transition from student to professional academic. Specifically Mewburn (2011) discusses how there is evidence for doctoral researchers who interact with one another often whine and encouraged this type of struggle storytelling with others, even if they were not having any challenges. In recounting experiences of PhD gatherings and discussion over lunch, Inger identifies with the camaraderie of a shared PhD struggle:

 “The recognition that others were struggling too certainly made me feel better, but at the same time my own role in the talk was strangely discomforting. I realised I was amplifying my writing trouble, making it into a ‘war story’  in order to make it amusing and interesting to others. I wondered: was my performance of an   ‘inept student’  in the kitchen a form of PhD student identity work? By talking about being ‘in trouble’ with my writing, I was positioning myself as ‘one of us’  (a student) and not ‘one of them’  (a professional academic)  which was closer to my lived experience. I began to wonder: did my fellow PhD students ever deliberately perform ‘non competence’  too? It’ s likely that many of them experienced good writing days, but I rarely, if ever, heard about them in the lunch room” (Mewburn, 2011, p. 322).

Which brings me to my own experiences, and thoughts about my PhD progress. Do I keep quiet or join in with the slagging if I am around others who are complaining about the struggle? Do I try to down play my advances in writing and publications with other grad students? Have I told any “war story” to entertain my peers, rather than the reality of my own research progress? It is easy to fall into this, especially when there are funny xckd.com images or brilliant PhDComics.com cartoons. Just posting something like this to get a like, RT, or share from others in my PhD community is commonplace with those of us who claim #GradStudentProblems:

grad student motivation graph

A number of blogs, such as The Thesis WhispererPhD Talk, and PhD2Published; and Twitter hashtag communities, like #phdchat#gradchat, and the @GradHacker community of bloggers/Tweeters, have actually been quite helpful for my PhD progress.  I appreciate theses online communities for sharing ideas, talking about writing resources, offering advice, and linking to research methodology. When thinking about my own approach to “catching up” with my social networks (online and in person), I’ll be sure to not just moan about things. Although I do value my online networks, there’s nothing better than having a bit of a chat with other doctoral students/candidates or researchers when we get a chance to meet up and socialize.

Let’s not just use these social moments to be A.B.M. (always be moaning). As PhD candidates, our lives aren’t THAT bad. We were selected to study and research in a field or discipline we want, and really if it’s not your cup of tea … then maybe it’s time for a change anyways. Much of our PhD negative self-talk or even group-think can stifle research and writing momentum. Sure – there’s going to be issues and challenges; however we need to celebrate the small victories along the way. I know we have more productive and interesting things to talk about when we get together (online or in person), so let’s collectively encourage, motivate, and positively influence each other with our research progress. We CAN do it!

Reference:

Mewburn, I. (2011). Troubling talk: Assembling the PhD candidate. Studies in Continuing Education, 33(3), 321-332.