Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Getting writing done... what seems to work for me

First of all -- I should be clear about a few things:
  1. I'm writing this post when I should be writing my dissertation -- so I don't always follow my own advice.
  2. I've tried many other alternatives, which worked after a fashion.
  3. I'm not so sure I'm producing good stuff, but I am producing something. The determination of quality is completely separate from the number of pages :).
So -- how to get stuff done in the summer --- my view:
  • The place is important: Wherever you're writing should be comfortable. For me that means the desk only has stuff I need to write -- no teaching stuff, no misc stuff, no bills etc.
  • The atmosphere is important: If you need quiet, or don't -- make that happen. I've recently changed from having chick-talk radio on in the background to ipod playlists -- and Hubby assures me that making playlists counts in dissertation time.
  • Having a schedule is important: Start with an idea of how many hours you want to put into it -- and then plan to do something afterward.
  • Writing regularly is important: This was a huge surprise to me -- but it makes a lot of sense. Even if you can only do a short bit on some days, being consistent means you don't have to go back and remember what you did before -- so it's much more efficient.
  • Counting all writing work is important: You should count the writing, reading and thinking time in your scheduled time. Sometimes I just stare out the window -- it worked for Kant, it might work for me :).
  • Minimize distractions: If you feel compelled to dip into facebook or e-mail, do so -- but don't get into long discussions... also, make a to do list for later.... if you write it down, you'll remember to do it later, so it won't be on your mind when you are trying to think.
  • Stay in the chair / but take breaks as needed: I think of dissertation time as 'chair time', but sometimes, when I'm stuck, I'll get up and walk around to think -- sometimes I'll load the dishwasher or do something else that doesn't require thought. I don't turn on the TV, pick up fun reading or other things that will actually distract me... like writing a blog post :).
  • Have a plan: Set a goal for your project, set sub-goals and then write them on your calendar. For each day that you achieve the day's goals, make a big X on the calendar -- this helps you see your momentum. I've done this on my desk pad calendar... and so far it's worked. Also, have a plan to reward yourself for good behavior.
Now, to do my two hours - then to the pool...


What Now? said...

I've been realizing this week that I need to spend some time clearing out and squaring away my writing space. As you say, setting is important, and at the moment all my setting says to me is "Geez, you're a slob" -- NOT conducive to writing!

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I've actually found it helpful not to have a very large desk. My desk is the size of a pretty small IKEA dining room table ('cuz that's what it is :)). It's about twice the width of my Mac -- and not much deeper than my largish desk calendar. I have it right next to Hubby's desk, which is identical.

When he was in Red State, I'd put stuff over there -- but then I felt like a slob and didn't get work done. Now that he's back for good, I need to keep the crap contained and am more productive...

undine said...

Yesterday was a clearing-away day for me, but I'll soon be back to the sort of regimen you describe.