Supporting An Active Writing Practice

As you may have already guessed I like writing.  I’ve been blogging about public history for years, I maintain a personal/off-topic blog with my partner, I’ve written for other history outlets, and I also write occasionally as part of my job. I also write some fiction occasionally.  Like many people who maintain creative or academic writing practices I struggle with finding time and coming up with ideas for the creation of new content.

In the past I’ve found writing in public as a helpful tactic to keeping on track.  Talking publicly about my writing goals and sharing works in progress helps keep my accountable to readers and to myself.  I’ve also participated in “A Meeting With Your Writing” as a way to carve out dedicated time for academic writing and that has worked wonders for seeing projects move off my writing plate.

As an attempt to try something new with my writing practice and revive personal goals that have been languishing I’ve decided to create a writing schedule.  This isn’t meant to be something that is set in stone but rather a map that I can use to sort out what projects I can or should be working on.  Broken down by week I’ve used the schedule as a place to create a list of future blog topics, keep track of paid writing gigs, and note due dates for academic writing projects.  I’m hoping that this schedule will be a useful tool for managing my writing time.  I can use it both as an idea bank and an organizing tool.  It’s currently just a Google Sheet, so nothing fancy, but I think it has potential and I’m looking forward to seeing if it helps with some of the organization and creative roadblocks I’ve been bumping up against.

What tools do you use to support your writing practice?

Writing and Researching in Public

writer-605764_640In the past couple of years there have been a handful of writing in public projects which aim to illuminate the academic writing process, allow writers to connect with others, and demystify the labour that goes into writing.

For example Michelle Moravec’s Writing in Public project makes visual the process that goes into writing history.  She publicly shares drafts and opens her writing to critiques and comments at all stages. And the #Acwri twitter hashtag allows academic writers to connect virtually and share progress in a public space.  Similarly many academic use personal blogs or websites as forums for sharing ongoing research.

I’ve recently been sharing what I’m researching, reading, and writing on twitter.  So far this has been a very positive experience.  Often when I’ve tweeted about an article or something I’m writing people have responded by suggesting other authors or articles to look at.  This has been valuable in connecting me with a larger community of academics and has been useful in generating reading lists. It has also been encouraging to engage in conversations around my research and to have a sense of being connected to other scholars.

Writing and research can be isolating.  It is almost always a solo undertaking and it’s easy to become discouraged when you hit a roadblock or you’re working on a multi-month or multi-year project.  Writing in public can help make this process more open and community based.  Similarly talking about and stating your writing goals publicly or participating in a writers group where you need to report your progress can help if you have problems around commitments, timelines, and motivation.  When it’s public knowledge that you plan on completing something by x date you’re more likely to honour that commitment than if it’s just a deadline in your head.  So, on with the writing.

Academic Writing Practice

As November and the possibility of participating in #AcWriMo approaches I’ve been reflecting on my writing practice.  A couple of years ago I participated in NaNoWriMo and was diligent about writing every day.  I didn’t meet the 50,000 word count but I came pretty close. The year prior to that I participated in #AcWriMo and blogged at minimum three times a week.  Last year I took a break and wrote sporadically without any concrete goals.

Since September I’ve been making a commitment to myself to spend at minimum two hours a week on academic writing. Some weeks I write more than that and some weeks I struggle to find the time to string together a few sentences.  I have managed to get a start a paper I’ve been neglecting and wrap up a few other small writing projects.

I still find that early morning is the best time for me to write.  I am more focused, motivated, and enthusiastic about writing in the morning.  However I am finding it increasingly difficult to squeeze that writing time in first thing.  Scheduling it into my calendar like a meeting does help.  As does having finite projects and smaller writing goals.

What does your writing practice look like?  How do you make sure you have time to write?