Today marks the last day of Academic Writing Month, which has led me to reflect on what we have achieved this November. This is the first year that King’s College London has been involved in WriteFest, and I have been delighted with the engagement from our research staff. I organised 7 formal workshops/events through November, with 111 attendees. Furthermore, I have hosted 8 Shut Up and Write! sessions, with 32 attendees, and approximately 27000 words were written – which is an awe-inspiring number.
Over the month, I have had some amazing conversations with those attending workshops or Shut Up and Write! sessions and I have found myself having a similar conversation with different individuals or groups. The majority of people found that coming to the workshops/writing sessions helped them feel motivated and more productive; spurring them on to write more. It is easy to stay focused in a silent room with strangers! But what happens next? How can you stay motivated when research, kids, pets, politics, students, and managers demand your attention?
There is one key way to do this – make writing a priority. Give it, and yourself, the respect of time and space to think. Then the words will flow.
It is very easy to say that writing is a priority, but you also need to admit to yourself that writing is an equally important part of your job as conducting research. Some of you may love writing, some of you may hate it. But all of you know that ultimately, dissemination of your research is achieved primarily through publishing, and you need grants to get funding to test your theories and conduct research.
Okay, so you’ve admitted that writing is important. Now what? Well, now you need to find out how you write most effectively. My previous two blogs offer tips on creating the perfect writing environment and using music to aid your writing; but you also need to consider how you work best. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person? Carve out the time to write when you know you are at your best. Honor the importance of writing and actively pursue it as a priority. This is likely to mean that you have to forgo other things, maybe an hour of sleep, TV, or gaming – but if you give these things a higher priority than writing then unconsciously you are telling yourself that writing isn’t important.
Make a plan and set goals
Writing can be a struggle when you don’t know where to start. Take the time to create a plan, with your ultimate goal broken down into manageable writing sessions – and remember to allocate time for editing and proof-reading! This is equally as important as the writing itself. Additionally, if you have this time allocated later in your plan, you don’t have to worry about editing as you write. This will help you to get your thoughts in order on the page and more words written.
Commit to writing something every week
On average, it takes over 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic; however, this can vary from 18 to 254 days depending on the person and behaviour. Forming habits is difficult, and will take consistency and commitment. But in the long run, this will pay off in dividends. You will become more efficient, and you may even start to look forward to writing!
It has been clear this month that writing with a group helped everyone achieve more. I will continue to run Shut Up and Write! through the year (including adding a webinar option for remote group writing) but why not set up a writing group yourself? Use each other as motivation and peer pressure to stay focused.
Finally, it is important to be able to take a step back every now and again and see the bigger picture – what are you writing for? Sometimes writing in research can feel formulaic and dry because of all the rules and formatting. Start by writing to engage your audience, instilling all your enthusiasm about your research onto the page; you can worry about the strict formatting later.
What have you achieved this month? I would love to hear about your successes! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join me for the final Shut Up and Write! sessions of 2018 on 13th December.