Ten Tips Hand Out

My top ten tips, gleaned from the literature on writing productivity and my experience as a tutor, for increasing your writing productivity.
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    Kara Lee Donnelly 10/17/14  Writing Center 1.  Write Every Day  . This is the number one piece of advice that you will find in a variety of sources about both academic and non-academic writing. It keeps the project fresh in your mind, keeps you moving forward, and helps you remember that writing is a central element of  your scholarly career. 2. Set a Writing Schedule . Many writers benefit writing from the same time every day; for a lot of them, that time is first thing in the morning. Joan Bolker stresses Ruth Whitman’s maxim “write first.” If morning isn’t best or possible for you, figure out a time that is best for you, and then schedule it. Treat it like you would a class, a lab meeting, or any other non-negotiable obligation. If you can’t write during your normal, optimal writing time, make sure  you schedule some time at another point in the day. Eviatar Zerubavel, author of The Clockwork Muse , has many suggestions for establishing a regular schedule. 3. Create Optimal Work Conditions . This has two parts. First, you need to find a way of minimizing distractions. This could include writing somewhere where you are unlikely to be interrupted, turning of your internet connection, silencing your phone, and other physical blocks. Second, make your writing space as pleasant as possible. You may want to take the time to clean off your desk, decorate your writing space, or find a good lamp. 4. Set Written Goals. Many of us have hopes about when we’ll finish writing projects and hard deadlines of when things need to be done. Make these concrete by writing them down, and then figure out sub-goals to complete along the way. Begin each writing session by writing down a goal. Early on in a project, this may be a number of pages, a number of ideas, or a number of words; later on, when you have a clearer sense of the project, these goals may be more specific. 5. Track Your Progress.  After each writing session, figure out if you’ve achieved your goal. You may want to record this in narrative form such as a journal, in numeric form such as a spreadsheet, or both. Using these two kinds of documents in tandem can be especially useful because they enable different kinds of tracking. 6.Re-evaluate Your Process.  What works during the summer may not work during the semester; what works when you are working on an article may not work for a dissertation;  what works when you were at the beginning of a project may not work at the end. For this reason, stop and take stock from time to time. Joan Bolker provides a list of questions you may want to ask yourself at the midpoint of a project. Your dissertation log may help you figure out what’s working and what’s not: research yourself as a writer just as you research the topics you are writing about.   Ten Tips for Increasing Writing Productivity    Kara Lee Donnelly 10/17/14  Writing Center 7. Begin Before You’re Ready  . This is one of the key suggestions of Robert Boice, author of Professors as Writers  and many other scholarly works on writing productivity. Boice suggests freewriting, generative writing, and concept mapping early on in a project to hone your ideas. Claire B. Potter, who writes The Tenured Radical blog, emphasizes the importance of putting yourself in intellectually vulnerable positions for productivity. Joan Bolker calls this “writing your way in.” 8. Stop Before You’re Exhausted.  As a corollary to beginning before your ready, Boice also suggests stopping before you’re exhausted. To win the marathon of a long-term writing project, you need to retain your energy. Stop before you’re totally exhausted, and leave a note to yourself about where you want to pick up the next day. 9. Make Writing Social. This is stressed by a number of writing experts including Wendy Belcher and Robert Boice. This can take a number of forms, from casual conversations  with colleagues to finding a writing partner or group to regularly scheduling time to talk about your writing with a supervisor, other faculty mentor, or writing center tutor. 10.  Visualize the Final Product. Research from the field of educational psychology that having high writing self-efficacy, or having high belief in your own ability to complete a task, can account for up to 30% of variance of writing outcomes. This means that you will benefit in many ways from developing your own self-confidence. One way to do that is to  visualize the final project. Imagine what a finished dissertation, thesis, or article would look like. What will you feel like when you get there? What can you do today to get  yourself one step closer? * * * Some Resources  Wendy Belcher, Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success  (Los Angeles: Sage, 2009). Robert Boice, Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing   (Stillwater, OK: New Forums, 1990).  Joan Bolker, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis  (New York: Holt, 1998). Eviatar Zerubavel, The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books  (Cambridge: Harvard, 1999).
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