Finding the time to write
The publisher Wiley has lots of useful resources for researchers, educators and professionals, including a blog by Ania Gruszczynska on how to find the time to write (or, ‘how to publish without perishing’). Below is an edited excerpt from their website, printed with permission from Wiley.
Given that the unofficial motto of academia is ‘publish or perish’, it is probably unsurprising that a lot of my coaching work revolves around writing and helping people become more productive writers. After all, success in the academic rat race is contingent on the ability to churn out research articles in an environment where carving out the time to write can be quite tricky.
1. There is no need to ‘save’ your writing for large blocks of uninterrupted time.
2. Making a commitment to a regular working practice can help you boost your productivity and meet your writing goals, one short session at a time.
3. Guilt is unproductive and will not make you a better writer.
Those in academic jobs often find that writing time is the first thing to go amidst teaching, pastoral, and administrative responsibilities. Those struggling to find academic jobs have to squeeze in academic writing somewhere in between their day job(s) and intensive job-hunting. Even those on a decidedly non-academic career path may discover that their desired job does involve a substantial amount of writing. For instance, I never suspected that as a project manager so much of my time would be spent generating text in the form of reports, briefings, and project documentation.
So, I will often hear from my coachees that they want to use the sessions to develop better writing habits to help them progress in their careers or to finally get that monkey (otherwise known as the post-PhD article) off their backs – the same one that they’ve been meaning to get around to for the past six years. Then, invariably, they will mention guilt for not writing enough and not having enough time to write, and will often argue that the only thing standing between them and the finished piece of text is large chunks of uninterrupted time.
If I was to name ‘the one belief that stops you from writing’, it would be the perception that academic writing cannot happen in short, structured chunks of time
There are obviously no magic fixes to writing productivity, but if I was to name ‘the one belief that stops you from writing’, it would be the perception that academic writing cannot happen in short, structured chunks of time. Somehow, the writing fairy does not visit those who only have half an hour to spare in their busy lives and so the only option is to wait for that magical time, maybe in December when things calm down, and a golden window of opportunity will present itself. Except, it doesn’t have to be that way. This is where insights from enquiry into the habits of productive academic writers come in handy.
Robert Boice looked at the writing habits of new academics and noticed that the ones who managed to produce the most articles did so in brief but regular sessions. He discovered that it was enough for people to commit to regular 30-minute morning writing sessions to boost their academic productivity and produce at least 2–3 papers per year – considerably more than their colleagues who stalled their writing until they could find a free block of at least 3–4 hours, which in academia is probably rarer than hen’s teeth.
There is also some interesting work by Brian Martin, who writes about strategies for shifting from a ‘binge-writing’ to more of a ‘snack-based’ approach. I would recommend that everyone try committing to a regular writing practice to see if it makes a difference and removes some of the procrastination-induced guilt. Half an hour per day is enough, preferably first thing in the morning!
Content originally published by Wiley, and edited for the Society for the Study of Addiction website by Natalie Davies. The SSA is very grateful for the opportunity from Wiley to share this useful resource with its readership.
The opinions expressed in this post reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official positions of the SSA.
The SSA does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of the information in external sources or links and accepts no responsibility or liability for any consequences arising from the use of such information.