In honour of AcWriMo I thought I’d share some of the practical writing tactics that got me through the last year of my EngD. Please bear with me, some of them may seem a bit odd at first but they worked for me so they might also work for you.
Get into a writing routine
This doesn’t have to be every day but structure your writing days in a similar way helped me trick myself into writing mode when I didn’t quite feel it.
Also don’t force yourself into a routine that doesn’t feel natural. I preferred to write in the morning, by 3pm I generally had to lost it and could barely write a proper sentence. That was my cue to move on to a different type of task.
Change your physical location when you are changing the type of task
This is my slightly left-field tactic but it was the best thing I did. I divided my time into five main types of task: writing, reading, data analysis, planning and compiling it all.
Writing was done at the British Library under the Kings collection, where there was free wifi and good coffee available. Reading however needed a bit more peace and quiet so this tended to happen in the reading rooms of the British Library, where the studious nature of others rubs off on you.
Data analysis and compiling we’re actually done in the same place; the spare room. This started as the data analysis place but became the compiling it all place later on. Both of these tasks required a place that allowed me to spread and be messy in a way that the library wouldn’t allow.
Planning alongside answering emails and other admin tasks were invariably done in coffee shops dotted around London. I found the writing process quite lonely so tried to be around people at every opportunity.
Track your writing progress
There are general recommendations to write around 1000 words a day. I only managed this on very productive days. Instead I used the fantastic AcWri accountability spreadsheet from Jenn to track how many words I had written that day.
I aimed for 500-1000 quality words per writing day and was really pleased when I could look back and see I was steadily upping the word count, even if that day’s progress felt quite slow.
Plan your next writing day at the end of your last
This also helps with structuring your writing day. Spending the last half hour of each writing day looking forward helped me hit the ground running the next day.
The plans weren’t necessarily detailed but included section headings and authors I wanted to mention. I also found it helpful to re-read my notes about those papers or their abstracts to refresh my memory. Knowing where the papers I needed were also helped me be a bit more efficient.
Most importantly find what works for you. Find a space or place where you can be comfortable and productive and good luck. Let me know if you try any of these tactics and how it goes, I’d be really interested to hear any of your own tactics too…