This is my #AcWriMo accountability post. Like #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this event is geared to help people make writing a daily habit, to set specific measurable goals, and to provide the social support and public accountability to help meet those goals. The event is sponsored by the website PhD2Published. The public accountability is in the form of a spreadsheet, here. And the social support comes in the form of a very active Twitter hashtag (#AcWriMo), and a Facebook group. Lots of participants (there are over 600 the last time I checked the spreadsheet) also have their own blogs and are writing posts like this one.
I’ve made academic writing a focus in the past twelve months. I’ve tried a number of different tools and techniques to help me establish a daily writing habit and produce results:
Alinof Timer (timer for desktop)
iTomato (timer for iPhone)
All of these have helped, some more than others (I’ll be more specific if anyone asks), and writing regularly has become a fairly well established habit.
I’ve learned that while the internet is a distraction (see the three examples of blocking software above), it’s really not the main problem. The truth is that the internet does not normally distract me from my work. It doesn’t distract me from teaching, from university service, or from my work as a clinical ethicist. I realized I have negative feelings not only about myself as an academic writer, but about the value of academic writing itself. Putting them together is a recipe for staring at a blank screen until the urge to check Twitter takes over.
Three things have proved most helpful:
1. Learning to start a writing session by “meditating” to get those negative feelings off my mental radar (Jo Van Every taught me this).
2. The Pomodoro Technique: essentially writing in 25 minute bursts, with a five minute break. I tell myself: “I can do anything for 25 minutes.” Often, after the first one, I don’t even need the timer any more.
3. Social writing. I really like knowing someone is writing along with me. This is partially about accountability, but more about reassurance. When I am alone with my writing, negative feelings can take over. Having another person, even a stranger, writing at the same time somehow makes it seem alright. Right now, I use Jo Van Every’s Meeting With Your Writing on Mondays (conference call followed by 90 mins of writing, then a follow up conference call), and Twitter the rest of the time. #Acwrimo is the best bet for this right now. A NaNo Twitter feed, NaNoWordSprints is also great.
My AcWriMo goals:
I’m going to do 20 Poms a week, hopefully four a day each weekday. At the end of November, I’ll submit one article to a journal, and have a draft of a second article.
The article I’m submitting is on medical romance. Right now organized medicine is in a period of contestation over what “professionalism” means, how to measure it, and how to teach it. I’m looking closely at a set of sixteen Harlequin medicals in a series for the version of medical professionalism it seems to represent. I’m planning to give a presentation on this in April at the PCA meeting in Chicago, not in the popular romance area, but in the medical humanities area, if they’ll have me. That said, I am so looking forward to the Susan Elizabeth Phillips talk and the Janice Radway event at PCA that the romance folks are putting on.
The second article will either be (a) one I started a year ago on organ donation but haven’t finished (it’s based on an ethics consultation that, believe it or not, has been unfolding for over two years), or (b) a piece on an ethics consultation I had earlier this year in which the patient refused to speak to physicians, but had a great relationship with nurses, or (c) a pedagogy reflection on the mock ethics consultations my students do in my undergrad bioethics course. The first project is the one I have done by far the most work on, but the second is the “easiest”, and the third would be written for a specific call for papers, and so might be the “easiest” to publish. We’ll see.
Since I’m on sabbatical I’m already more or less meeting my daily AcWriMo goals, but it’s fun to take part anyway. I’m off to add a couple of stars to that wall calendar in the pic.