It ‘s #acwrimo. The month where scholars make pledges – word targets are set, manuscript deadlines are made public and the writing retreats that were organised months ago finally happen.
This year I seem to be part of the #acwrimo support system. I’m just about to start two weeks working at the University of Southern Queensland on a range of academic writing lectures and workshops. I’m also offering something called the Temporary Writing Studio where people can book in or drop in just to bounce around writing ideas and issues. I’ll be blogging from USQ while I’m there so you will, if you want, find out a bit about what’s up.
But apart from this, I’m not really participating in #acwrimo. I have in the past. But not this year. That’s because word counts are a bit unnecessary right now. A productivity goal doesn’t fit with what I have to do. So maybe it’s not for me.
You see, what I really need to do is to make a plan for the entire year, one that challenges and extends what I usually do. I’m pretty good at producing books and papers and I don’t need to set myself a word, page or document target. I do need to do something though. I need instead to work on both the content and the style of the things I am already committed to, and will get done. So #acwrimo redux it is then.
Let me start my #acwrimo redux promise this way… this year I’m going to write a well written and eminently quotable angry book. I want to make this book accessible to a wide readership. But there is quite a bit of philosophy and political history involved so I’m going to have to work very hard to make it readable. It’s got to be interesting to people who wouldn’t ordinarily read a book about education policy. The clear and present danger with this book is that I just won’t be able to write it well enough …
I’m also working on extending – well, getting better at really – what I’m calling writing as montage. This is writing about learning, in through and with contemporary art practice. I’m trying to develop writing which in some way actually IS what I’m arguing – namely, that learning in, with and through contemporary art practice is episodic, incomplete, and more a tangle of stuff than a neatly organized argument. There are loose threads, unfinished thoughts and planned and random associations. This kind of writing is hard. Well, let me qualify that. It’s easy to produce something that sounds completely naff, and much harder to do something that reads well, that isn’t cringeworthy. The danger with this kind of writing is sounding completely self indulgent, or incomprehensible, or impossibly studied. Or all of those at once. Eek.
I’m also way behind writing with a couple of Drs on projects we’ve done since their PhDs. This is also dangerous work, as we need to navigate a relationship that is not supervisory, nor one where they simply provide the content for my argument. I have to avoid correcting their work. I must find a new way to engage in generative conversations about the research and writing. The danger here is that I won’t be able to do this and will resolutely stay in control over everything.
And I’d like to just, you know, write outside more. En plein air. If it’s good enough for artists, it ought to work for me too. Out of the office. Into the weather.
So that’s my public commitment for #acwrimo. Not for a month, but a year. Not a productivity target, but something about extending and moving away from what I am comfortable with, to something that I will have to sweat over.
And I’m writing this here and now, in #acwrimo, to encourage you to think about what you REALLY need to achieve in your writing. Word targets and document completions can be great. They really can. And they may be just what you need. But maybe you are somewhere else, and need a different kind of goal. If so, #acwrimo can still work for you. Maybe like me, you can use #acwrimo to set your own timeframe to suit your very particular plans and aspirations.
And do tell if you do.