I am writing this post as I am finally relieved about my #acwrimo progress having put an end to the challenge. I thought it would be useful to think about what went well and what felt more like a disaster during this last month. I have undeniably learnt quite a few lessons, but also worked on my confidence in writing and as a PhD student. At times I found managing the writing month challenge quite difficult if not impossible as I am at the final stage of fieldwork, so I spend a few days a week at school talking to children and teachers to gather my data. Finding time was a stretch but not unachievable after all.
I completed 2 out of 3 goals that I set at the beginning of the month:
√ Redraft and update 1 PhD chapter, namely the literature review
√ Draft a paper for journal publication
Write-up data analysis case studies (I still managed 2)
I said I would work on these goals by allowing a minimum of 2 writing hours per day on workdays and most days I could manage that. I did a few longer writing sessions too, when I had a bit more time.
The following major lessons come out of this exercise of mad writing and getting to know myself and my dear working habits:
Enhancing long-term productivity
I have always been working in a productivity rush, meaning that I would get 2 extremely productive days of writing and then slack for the next 3 in consolation that this is how the writing process works and I have run out of things to say. Well, this is not true! The 30 day committment I made for #acwrimo meant that I had to write every day regardless of how I feel about it. It worked! I found out that I had plenty to write and edit, my final wordcount for the month is nearly 30,000 words… Don’t get this the wrong way though, it wasn’t all glory as some days I really struggled to write but persevered. Now I know that the rule is writing every day and I plan to stick to it.
Making the impossible possible
Signing up for #acwrimo was a rushed decision and I honestly did not believe I could manage the time in addition to my fieldwork and other uni duties. However, my supervisors strongly encouraged me to work on my writing drafts and take on the challenge as writing is so so important. So with careful planning, short sleeps at night and very early mornings I managed to put in 2 hours for writing. And some days I wished I could do more… Thinking back, if I did not sign up for the challenge and if I wasn’t publicly accountable via Twitter, FB and the progress spreadsheet, I would have used the lack of time as an excuse not to do any writing. Now I know that I can stretch myself a bit more and ultimately improve my work and progress.
Focusing on the important goals
At some point I realised that my 3rd goal was not realistic as I needed transcribed data to write-up the case studies. It was way too ambitious, so i decided to drop it, even though I still wrote 2 case studies at the very beginning. Having this goal kind of out-of-the-way helped me to focus on the other two and make sure I complete them rather than have 3 unfinished pieces of writing at the end. There will be plenty of time for transcribing and writing up the case studies next month…
The fact that I managed 2 of the goals was a great accomplishment! I finally feel satisfied and relieved that I have done a significant amount of writing. So I have lots of material to edit and play around with. I have learnt that it is a matter of setting a goal and making small steps to achieving it every day. It’s all about perseverance and trying and trying and trying some more at the end!
Support from the #acwrimo community
I think that the #acwrimo community was the best part! Being in the same pot with over 300 research students and early career academics, writing and sharing the good and the bad was refreshing. I loved the cheer and shared experiences on Twitter and frankly, they gave me strength and food for thought.
Am I going to do this again? Yes, most definitely!