Most of us have heard of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where you go crazy writing and aim to churn out 50,000 for a novel in November. I have been aware of it for the last couple of years and I thought it sounded like a really cool idea. Now there are a whole lot of variations on the theme, including one more relevant for me, which is AcWriMo – academic writing month.I did a bit of maths on this and worked out that a goal of 50,000 means you will need to write 1667 words each day.
But my efforts at the moment (both professionally and personally) are to take more of a slow and steady approach.
I remember an academic telling me that to finish his PhD, he would send his family on holiday for a week and spend 18 hours a day writing. I had some other commitments while I was studying, so this wasn’t going to be feasible. The light bulb came on for me when I attended a workshop called Turbocharge your writing: you don’t need big chunks of time! You don’t need the binging and purging of writing bulimia, or a whole work at home/research day each week. Small snacks of writing are going to be more useful in the long run.
Small, regular efforts take a while to show results, but can become habitualised into daily routines. I love the pomodoro, and I *try* to devote one unit of tomato time to writing each day. It doesn’t always work, but I have gotten two journal articles written this year. With the other commitments I have, this is a great achievement.
I said I try to write each day, but it doesn’t always happen. I have been looking at a technique that would help me along. Something that would help me to not break the chain. This was when I remember seeing 750words being mentioned on Twitter. I have had a play on the site, and I think it will work (I’m writing this post on here now).
The site itself gives you a clean white screen, with minimal formatting and distractions. At the top is a square for each day of the month and each day of writing gets you a check mark, with bonus points similar to bowling strikes. You an also earn some Foursquare-like badges. I’m not really interested in how the score works: I’m interested in the results. What I really like is the politely worded nudge you can get each day via email, at a time you schedule. There is also a monthly challenge where you can publicly declare your intentions, along with a prize/punishment. Not meeting your monthly commitment sees your name added to the Wall of Shame.
The site seems to work well, but I have encountered a couple of initial issues. The first is that I have gone onto the site to write in the morning (which is the only time I am able), and it wasn’t online. This saw my name added to the Wall of Shame on the very first day of the October writing challenge. The other glitch I encountered was when I couldn’t remember if I used Facebook or Google for my sign in method. I signed in with the incorrect one, created a new account and managed to somehow delete both, losing some work and my writing streak.
If you can manage to commit to writing every day on this site, or wherever you would like to write, this adds up to a whopping 273,000 words (or 273,750 in a leap year).
So I’m going jump on the band wagon and join with my fellow academics for AcWriMo. I like the collegiality – particularly because I am not based near campus. However, my goal will be slightly different. I’m going to aim to write 750 words each day in November (a modest 22,500 words). BUT! I’m going to attempt to keep up this pace for an entire year (with some scheduled holiday time) and see what I get done.
In terms of what I’ll be writing, I’ll be focussing on:
- a technical manual that I have been attempting to finish for some time
- writing up a journal article on London 2012’s impact on physical activity levels in Australia
- writing a paper on the social capital gained from mass participation sporting events
- writing a weekly blog post
So if it takes 30 days to acquire a habit, then by the end of November, I should be well on my way.