#AcWriMo 2014 Review: Post-thesis writing is hard (duh)

November has gone by in a blur! The “what just happened” kind of blur. Now that the dust has settled I’d like to share some of my thoughts on participating in #AcWriMo this year:

  • This year was by far the most difficult year in terms of getting words down on paper because I didn’t “have to” work on my thesis. The previous two years I was under pressure to get my thesis written. Now that I’ve submitted it, I feel less pressured to write.
  • The pressure to write is different post-thesis. I have more ‘head space’ to explore my research area. With this freedom comes decisions, which isn’t always easy when deciding the next direction to take.
  • Mostly, I think I was tired. I didn’t have any down time after I submitted my thesis and just went straight into teaching new courses. Despite having a detailed outline and a fairly structured writing schedule it was not easy to get my thoughts on paper.
  • It is still motivating to read about other people’s achievements on Twitter. Writing is still largely an isolating task, even post-thesis, so keeping connected is important, regardless if it’s on Twitter or via some other means.

This year I did not meet my goal of writing a whole first draft of my book chapter and I’m actually ok with this. I did, however, write 3000+ words that made a for an overly(?) detailed outline of the chapter which I’ve submitted to the editors. I’ve made progress and done what I could this year. I’ve been struggling to write on topics that are related-yet-separate to the work I’ve done for my thesis, and having feedback at this point in the writing process is needed. In all, #AcWriMo this year was a struggle, and yet again I learned a lot about myself as a writer.

How was #AcWriMo for you? Please share your thoughts!

(image by wax115 via MorgueFile)

AcWriMo 2014 is coming! You in?

acwrimo1-01November is nearly upon us and that means it’s nearly time for Academic Writing Month 2014!

For those completely new to “AcWriMo” it’s a month long writing event that academics all over the world can take part in. This event was created by @CharlotteFrost and is run with the help of a group of volunteers (including yours truly). For more detailed information, and to read about the history of this event, head over to PhD2Published blog (click HERE).

During #AcWriMo, this is what you do:

1. Decide on a writing-orientated goal. It should be challenging enough yet realistic in terms of what you think you can accomplish in a month’s time.

Some blog posts related to goal setting:

“Change is as good as a rest” by Rachael Cayley 

“Why I participate in AcWriMo” by Rellypops

2. Go public and declare your goal on the AcWriMo accountability spreadsheet found on this link: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1xkLlO3GqTej52RccKqsHwhf6v4pF2yaRZvywY1KuNtM/edit#gid=0

3. Get organised. Create an action plan that will help you achieve your goal. This may involve scheduling your work day, having smaller goals or just a change of work space. Whatever your goal, get yourself a plan of action.

The following blog posts have some great advice on developing a writing strategy:

“Ladder 1: Rung 1” by Ellen C. Spaeth 

“Writing accountablility part 1” by Jennifer Lim 

4.  Keep accountable to others by updating your progress online and/or discussing with your friends (in person or on Twitter) how you’re doing. It’s important not to isolate yourself during this event because there’s loads of support available, but you need to ask and reach out to others.

Some useful blog posts on previous #AcWriMo experiences:

“#AcWriMo Peer Pressure: Time, Challenge/Support & Cheerleaders” by Laura Pasquini

“I did #AcWriMo 2013 and survived to tell the tale” by Elizabeth Lundberg 

“#AcWriMo – Writing ‘with’ a community” by Eljee Javier

New to AcWriMo – What are you reservations? Back for more – what would you do differently? Feel free to comment below. 

Photo courtesy of flickr creative commons user woodleywonderworks

Thesis editing merry-go-round

I have what is known as a ‘first full draft’ of my thesis, which is an accomplishment in itself, but I certainly didn’t feel very ‘accomplished’ at the time of handing it in to my supervisors last December. It wasn’t a thesis, but more a collection of chapters, full of conceptual holes and in desperate need of a proofread! So far, I’m about 3/4 of the way there with my word count and I feel about 1/ 3  of the way in terms of my thinking. This month I’ve found myself going back to each chapter and making changes (e.g. deleting sections here, editing the wording in this paragraph, re-inserting the sections I had previously deleted) repeating the process again. It’s painfully slow and frustrating at times because I feel like that I should be making more progress. Or that I should be writing more. Or working faster. Or I should be further now…etc.etc. and etc.

Pattern for an 1857 Morning Coat. From http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/godey/fashion/di.html
Pattern for an 1857 Morning Coat. From http://www.uvm.edu/~hag/godey/fashion/di.html

I’ve had to stop and take a step back from my wretched pit of academic insecurity and remind myself that at this point, it’s not about how many words I can put on the page but rather a methodical plod towards really understanding my thesis. It seems terrible that I don’t really understand my own thesis, but it’s true. I’m trying to cut through my conceptual clutter and work on clarifying the central ideas. It sort of feels like I’m sewing an intricate shirt without having a visual reference. I have an idea of what the end product is suppose to resemble.  I have chosen all the materials I need for it, created a pattern guide to cut the pieces of the fabric, cut the fabric and sewn the pieces together but it doesn’t quite look like what I had envisioned (e.g. see image of “Morning Coat”).

So now, I’m currently working on simplifying the main points of my thesis without making them simple. In other words, I’m making a ‘visual reference’ for my metaphorical shirt so I can start sewing the pieces together more efficiently. I have the tendency to focus on the details so this is quite the challenge for me!