The month of November has arrived, and with it another reminder that I don’t have the time I’d like to devote to attempting NaNoWriMo. For anyone unfamiliar with this challenge, it’s the National Novel Writing Month challenge, in which participants attempt to write 50,000 words (a novel draft, or at least the start to one) in one month. I tried this challenge once in high school, but only wrote about 23,000 words (nothing to sneeze at, but nowhere near the actual goal). This November, however, I’m going to attempt a personalized version of the academic writing equivalent, #AcWriMo. I’m not going to attempt to write 50,000 words of an academic project, but I am challenging myself to be more academically productive this month.
On Facebook, I’m part of this amazing group created for and by academic women. In it, we offer each other support and advice related to life in-and-outside of academic settings. We also host a 10 day writing challenge at the beginning of each month. This month, a second challenge will extend through the rest of the month, for those of us who want to participate in AcWriMo. In our group, the goal is to achieve at least 15 minutes of writing every day, rain or shine, motivated or not. A small goal, perhaps, but one I really appreciate for its ability to make me feel like I can accomplish something important to my career every day without also feeling like a giant ball of stress. It’s rare for me to stop at 15 minutes when I participate in these 10 day challenges. And yet, outside of them, I can often go days without doing any academic writing. External accountability, it seems, does wonders for my writing productivity.
So, this November, my basic goal is to complete at least 15 minutes of academic writing a day, seven days a week. In addition to this goal, though, I have specific project goals I’d like to achieve. I’ve decided to publish these goals on this blog, so that I feel held accountable by its readers. I’ll also periodically post updates on my Twitter account, when I reach important milestones or complete the various projects I’ve decided to focus on.
Project 1: My Final PhD Comprehensive Exam
For anyone following me on Twitter, you might have seen my tweet on Wednesday about all the work I did on my exam in the days leading up to November. I’ve continued to work on the exam in the past couple days, to the point of turning in my exam yesterday. So, project one is actually already complete, two days into AcWriMo. While most of the writing occurred during October, a few hours of revision did occur this month. For some context, the exam format is a twenty-page paper.
Project 2: Scholarly Book Review
I’m two chapters short of finishing a book that I’ve been asked to review for an academic journal. The review needs to be around 1,000 words in length, so this is my next project, while I wait for the results of my exam. The book has been really interesting so far, so I’m hoping to finish up this project by the end of next week.
Project 3: Abstract for a Conference
There’s a conference I’m considering attending for the first time next year called Computers and Writing. As the theme is basically “digital play,” and I plan on having a whole chapter about fanfiction in my dissertation, I’d like to submit an abstract for consideration. So, a third project this month is to write and submit an abstract for this conference. The conference takes place almost immediately after the spring semester ends, so I need to make sure that my abstract matches the writing I’ll already be working on throughout this year. Fortunately, a portion of my exam already connects to my abstract idea.
Project 4: A Draft of My Dissertation Proposal
This final project is the major one for my personal AcWriMo challenge. I’m hoping to complete projects two and three before I receive my exam results (it usually takes two weeks to hear back), so that I can shift all my writing attention to this goal for the rest of the month. Parts of this proposal will already come from my exam, and I also already have a dissertation outline to work with. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to complete a full draft to send to my advisor by the last day of November.
The four projects I’ve described above will in no way equate to 50,000 words. They will also require that I work for more than 15 minutes a day on plenty of days this month. I’m excited to attempt this challenge for the first time, however, as this semester is definitely one that can definitely really benefit from it. Plus, my biggest academic writing challenge is often just attaining enough calmness to feel able to write. I tend to be an over-thinker when it comes to writing. I think that having a small time goal rather than word goal each day this month will help ground my writing experience.
Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo or AcWriMo? If you are, feel free to share your own goals in the comments!