Historical Reminiscents EP 39: Pushing Past Creative Barriers

Van trying to get past a herd of sheep.

This week, month, year has been hella hard for a lot of folks, with the news cycle making it extremely difficult to function ‘normally.’ What do you do when you are facing creative blocks, an inability to write, or feelings that whatever you are creating doesn’t matter? In this episode I talk about finding positive work spaces, sources of inspiration, and overcoming creative/intellectual hurdles.

I would love to hear about your sources of support and inspiration. Leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter.

Mentioned in this episode:
-Andrea Eidinger, “Historical Writing as a Creative Endeavour
-Jonathan Malesic, “The 40-Year-Old Burnout
-Pat Thomson, “Creativity and academic writing – an oxymoron?

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Historical Reminiscents EP 11: Healthy Writing Practices

Type writer keys on left. Right panel reads "Healthy Writing Practices"

I write a lot. My writing comes in numerous shapes: work related, academic publishing, and personal or reflective writing. In this episode I talk about building a healthy writing practice and some of my favourite tips for developing a writing routine. I discuss the idea of moving beyond word counts and looking at writing in a holistic way.

Mentioned in this episode:

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AcWriMo 2017

Wooden desk with a blank sheet of white paper and a laptop. Behind the paper is a pencil holder with pens and writing tools.

AcWriMo, the academic take on #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), has been around for a number of years . I’ve even participated a couple of times in the past and if you’re curious about what I’ve done in previous years see my #AcWriMo reflections from 2012 and 2015.

One of the things I love about #AcWriMo is that it encourages participants to pick their own writing goals.  It could be to finish a paper, write X number of words a day, work on a book project, or any thing else associated with academic writing.

The #AcWriMo initiative was originally started in 2011 by Charlotte Frost as a month dedicated to hitting those lofting academic writing goals, encouraging academics to talk about their writing in public,  and to build a virtual academic writing community.  This year Charlotte has stepped back from formal #AcWriMo organizing but many academics are still engaging with the hashtag and goals of the challenge. Additionally a lot of resources that were created for #AcWriMo are still available for download and use for those who are just getting started.

My 2017 #AcWriMo goals include:

  • Writing something every day.  It doesn’t have to be long but it does have to be related to my academic work and tweets don’t count.  I’m setting myself this goal as part of my ongoing efforts to build better writing habits.
  • Get back on track with regular scheduling blog posts.
  • Revamp my ongoing writing topics list to weed out ideas that no longer interest me.
  • Continue to plug away at an ongoing article draft.  My goal for this task is to have a draft ready for more detailed editing by the end of December.

My goals this year aren’t about quantity. They are about fostering good writing habits, prioritizing my work, and hopefully getting a few smaller things off my plate.  I would love to know who else is participating this year and what everyone’s goals are.

Photo credit: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.

Supporting An Active Writing Practice

Stop The Writers Block
Stop The Writers Block

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?