I’ve volunteered to be an AcWriMoAmbassador this year because I had such a great experience last time in terms of actually writing my thesis. #AcWriMo is short for “Academic Writing Month” where essentially you set a goal that you want to achieve in one month, declare it publicly, and get on working towards your goal. My goal last year was to complete the first full draft of my literature review which, to my surprise, I actually managed to do. I wrote about my experiences at the halfway mark (click HERE to read this post) and at the end, reflecting on what AcWriMo actually achieved (click HERE for that post).
Dr. Charlotte Frost, who founded AcWriMo, has posted more detailed information about this year’s the event (click HERE) which I encourage anyone remotely interested to read through! I remember feeling reluctant to join last year, thinking I wouldn’t have the time, until I realised that, actually, being part of this will actually help me find more time to work on my thesis!
On that note, I’m still deciding on this year’s goal. Having a tangible focus helped me to stay determined to meet my goal, so I’m trying to keep it manageable, yet, challenging since I’m aiming for submission (soon…). More on that later. For now, do join me and a ton of other academic writers out there this coming November!
November was a hell of a month! Between the last rush of teaching and keeping up with the endless admin that seems to crop up I actually managed to enjoy writing my thesis! When you consider the amount of tasks and responsibilities doctoral level student do, it’s easy to put the PhD aside for ‘later’, which seems like an ass-backward way of approaching doctoral level studies. It’s certainly unproductive and I’ve written before on the other pressures of doing stuff other than your thesis. This past month, however, was certainly an eye opener.
#AcWriMo asks participants to publicly declare a writing goal and track their daily progress on a public document (click HERE for more info). Now, there’s something about telling others about a goal that makes you want to ‘prove’ that you can do it and if anything, it’s about competing with yourself. What I asked myself was “Is this another one of those really good intentions or am I actually serious about doing this?” I found my motivation through telling others about my goal as well as reading about what other people, like me, are wanting to achieve during this month.
It didn’t matter that my goal wasn’t as big/long/crazy as others, it wasn’t a competition. At least I didn’t see it that way! There was freedom in knowing that I could declare my own writing goal and no one was going to say that my goal was wan’t good enough. I had nothing to prove to anyone other than myself. I realised that I was part of a community, regardless of whether I’ve met them online or in person. At least, for a time, the #acwrimo group was working towards meeting their own personal writing goals. Throughout the month I looked forward to reading the daily Twitter updates when people posted what they did that day, and found myself giving and receiving encouragement in the process. When you spend hours alone with your thesis it’s a hell of a kick to read a simple “Well done today!” from a fellow #acwrimo writer. I think that was the real power of #acwrimo, getting people together to help each other work towards meeting their own individual goals. Knowing that I wasn’t alone struggling to make my word count enabled me to keep going so that I could.
#acwrimo is the hashtag for (mainly) PhD students taking part in a month long writing challenges during November 2012. Essentially you choose a stupidly insane writing goal, make a plan, publicly declare your goal and track your results. The full description can be found HERE, written by @CharlotteFrost on the fab PhD2Published blog.
My writing goal was to have a complete draft of my first chapter, which is essentially my literature review. I’m a linear sort of writer, where I feel comfortable laying out the pieces of my conceptual framework and seeing what the whole things looks like before I move on to working with my data. It’s my preferred approach to writing documents that are substantially long. I thought that by joining #acwrimo I would be able to really make some in roads in what is turning out to be a really hard slog.
This goal may sound like easy (to the non-thesis writer) being “only” a chapter but, for me, it has been HELL. The last two weeks have been a huge fog of confusion that seems to clear up, word by word, page by page, as I slowly work through the concepts I’m trying to establish. It’s been an exceptional two weeks mainly because I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. Here are my reasons why:
1) Accountability: Having a publicly declared goal and updating your daily progressonline has been very motivating for me. I previously tried to go about it alone, doing a personal 30 day writing challenge, and when I look at the progress I made, it wasn’t nearly as much as what I’m achieving at this point simply because I was by myself. It’s ironic in the sense that you spend hours alone working on your thesis but it’s different when you know you’ve got a goal to meet that everyone knows about.
2) Structured days: One of my progress type of goals was to spend at least 2 hours every week day and 2 hours over the weekend just focussed on writing my thesis. In order to do this I’ve had to be incredibly organised in managing my schedule. My responsibilities as a teacher and as a student rep take up a lot of my time and there isn’t much room to procrastinate (much…).
3) That “this is going well” sort of feeling: Writing a thesis is a lot like being in a relationship, some days everything just makes sense and you feel amazing. Other days you wonder why you got together in the first place! Writing your thesis can be an emotional journey because of how much you have to invest in order to make it work. So feeling that I’m making some progress is crucial, for me, to keep going.