January 1, 2014
by Jessie L. Moore
Each January (and truth be told, each August, given the ebbs and flows of the academic calendar), I reassess my professional projects and writing goals. Looking at Writing Faculty, it’s obvious that this site didn’t get any of my attention over the past year. With settling into a new academic position, chairing two conferences, and working on my own writing projects, I had to prioritize writing over writing about writing. Nevertheless, the Writing Faculty concept – supporting both faculty who write and faculty who teach writing across the curriculum – remains central to my own professional identity even as I embark on researching other high-impact practices.
In an effort to revitalize this site and to reconnect with my goals for it, I’ll be trying something new in 2014. Once or twice a month, I’ll post a quick tip, writing strategy, or heuristic. All will be techniques that readers can try to move their own writing projects forward. Although many will correspond with my own stages in writing projects, they aren’t intended to be practiced linearly. Instead, bookmark an idea to try later, mix the strategies up, and come back to the ones that work best for you. Then share them with students and colleagues.
In addition to these short, week-day posts, I’ll occasionally post about relevant publications, conferences, and resources. Have suggestions for these annotation-type posts, or interested in writing a guest post? Please contact me.
Happy writing in 2014!
P.S. In case you were wondering why the posts will only appear on week days… While my work and writing does often slip into weekends, I put firmer boundaries on the type of work activities that I’ll pursue on weekends and on how much time I’ll devote to them.
June 8, 2012
by Jessie L. Moore
If writing isn’t part of your daily habits, it might be tempting to discount the merits of regular writing. Who has the time to write every day? How can writers accomplish anything if they only have 30 or 60 minutes to write? Don’t you need big chunks of time to be most effective?
Many effective writers are successful, though, because writing is a habit. In short, they’ve learned: Writers write.
In 1997, Bob Boice studied the productivity of binge writers and writers who wrote more regularly in moderation. His findings suggest that binge writers need more time to start writing; in other words, chunks of their writing binges are devoted to getting in the mood to write – not to actually writing. Furthermore, binge writers are less likely to keep thinking about their writing between writing sessions, which might contribute to that “getting started” time since they have to spend more time re-familiarizing themselves with what they already wrote and what they planned to tackle next. When binge writers in Boice’s study actually did write, they often discarded their plans. Ultimately these binge writing processes negatively affected writers’ achievement of their goals; Boice reports:
- “Binge writers, despite their occasional outbursts of writing, produced a much lower average output of pages, one that fell short of their projections for sufficient numbers to gain tenure” (448).
- “Bingers were far less likely to finish and gain acceptance for their scholarly manuscripts during [Boice’s] year of intense observation” (448).
So what can we learn from the habits of regular writers? Even small increments can lead to productive writing outcomes. Writers who write daily (or almost daily) can pick up more quickly when they return to writing, which often makes the act of writing more enjoyable. What’s more, forming a daily writing habit can lead to a higher writing output than waiting for infrequent binge writing sessions.
Still not convinced? Try it for yourself. Challenge yourself to write for 30- to 60-minutes each week day, next week. Make writing appointments in your calendar so that you protect the time. At the end of the week, tally your word count and reflect on the results. Did you make steady progress on your current writing project? For even more substantial results, challenge yourself to write at least three times a week for the rest of the month. Then celebrate your success!
Want to learn more about Boice’s study? Read: Boice, Bob. “Which is more Productive, Writing in Binge Patterns of Creative Illness or in Moderation?” Written Communication, 14 (1997): 435-459.
June 5, 2012
by Jessie L. Moore
At the end of last week’s Faculty Writing Residency, several participants noted that they have trouble making time for writing. The Residency gave them “permission” to block time to write, and they felt empowered to tell people they couldn’t schedule other meetings for the Residency week because they’d already committed to the four-day writing retreat. Many worried about establishing accountability for their writing goals outside the Residency structure.
If, like our participants, you find it hard to block time for writing, here are a few tips:
- Schedule a meeting just to write. Put it on your calendar every week and treat it as a sacred meeting time that rarely gets bumped. For more success, schedule the meeting to write with someone, even if you each write in your own office or preferred writing space. I tell Faculty Writing Residency alumni that they can make a standing appointment to “meet” with me to write; just make sure to tell me you’ve scheduled the appointments so that if someone asks I can confirm the standing meeting. 😉
- Make your writing goals public. Email them to friends/colleagues. Post them on facebook. Tweet about them. Or even participate in a “streaker” challenge. But increase your accountability by telling others about your writing goals.
- Share drafts as an accountability measure. Now that you’ve shared your writing goals, ask a friend if you can send drafts at regular intervals to keep you on track for meeting those goals. If your friend is in the same discipline or part of your writing group, they might be kind and offer feedback. The real point, though, is to be accountable to someone. If you said you’d write a literature review and send it by Friday, you’ll feel more pressure to meet your goal than if you haven’t told anyone else you’ll share the draft. (Of course, keep your writing goals manageable so that you can successfully meet them.)
- Start a writing group. Commit to meeting regularly, to exchanging drafts in advance of or at each meeting, and to sharing your goals for your next meeting. It might take a few tries to find the perfect group, but don’t give up. There are other people (on your campus, in your discipline, etc.) who would welcome the shared accountability and regular feedback that come with writing communities.