UW Graduate School

August 4, 2016

Writing Productivity: Tips for Making the Most of Your Summer

From everything we read about writing productivity, protecting a 30-minute writing practice – daily – is what helps build momentum and make progress.  It can also help to remember why you are writing and publishing – there can be a variety of reasons.  What’s yours? My faculty advisor had encouraged me to think about contributing to the peer reviewed literature as joining a conversation. Thinking about writing as participating in key gatherings in the field helped motivate me, more so than simply thinking, “I have to publish so I get a job or get promoted,” though of course that is real too!  Think for yourself: What impact do you want for your work? What goal do you want to reach?

Here’s a blog post that can give you some tips for getting started with that writing practice and making the most of the next 6-8 weeks of summer.  It starts with “forgive yourself” for what you have or haven’t yet been able to do with your summer weeks until now.

The Academic Coaching and Writing site has summarized author Robert Boice’s work on Procrastination and Blocking. Boice is a psychologist and has studied junior faculty on their productivity (or lack thereof) and has developed a framework for the kinds of barriers you can encounter (or create for yourself) and strategies for overcoming them.  His work is aimed at junior faculty – so you know these challenges of getting major writing projects done in the midst of a busy life don’t magically disappear once you get that first faculty position.  It is lifelong learning – I know I love finding these resources for you because I continue to need them and rely on them myself.

Any of this sounds familiar? Boice describes procrastination as “opting for short-term relief through acts that are easy and immediately rewarding, while generally avoiding the thought (and the anxiety) of doing more difficult, delayable, important things” (p. xix). Blocking is “getting stuck at a difficult transition point . . . usually because of paralyzing anxiety and uncertainty, often because the task will be evaluated publicly or because the taskmaster is distasteful” (p. xix).

He goes on to give a number of strategies for overcoming, such as:

  • engage in free writing;
  • find an appropriate location, free from interruptions;
  • schedule writing time every day, not to exceed 90 minutes at a time, with regular breaks and a definite stopping point;
  • stick to a schedule with a system of contingency management, a reward contingent on meeting the day’s goals;
  • turn self-defeating statements into positive statements to reduce anxiety; and
  • learn to use feedback productively.

Find any of this useful? Check out the links for more.  And happy writing! We are writing with you.

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Originally posted on August 4, 2016.