It’s the end of the officially designated month of academic writing. I must confess to being a bit dissatisfied with what I’ve done. I do seem to have written a lot. But it’s been more like – some of this and a bit of that and a couple of completions. Writing these texts took up huge amounts of time. But the end result is that there’s not been anything I can look back on with huge amounts of satisfaction. I can’t really say that this was the month that I made major advances in or on… In almost every way AcWriMo was a month like all others.
While I did do more reading about writing, just so I could write a couple of blog posts, not much else changed. At the end of the month I find myself with a chapter still incomplete, a major report that needs huge amounts of work, and a lot of bits and pieces that require my undivided attention. Those three ideas for papers remain tantalisingly out of reach. That potential book proposal stays unwritten.
Mostly I can live with the undone things, although not finishing the report is causing me some grief. Being sanguine about multiple and very partial successes comes from knowing that this is the usual state of affairs. The scholarly norm is having not one but a set of writings on the go. It’s rare in academia to be in a situation where you write serially, completing one textual task before going onto the next one. No, the reality is that there are always some texts being finalised, some underway and some standing in line.
The PhD is really a preparation for living with multiple texts. Writing the big book thesis always involves working on several chapters at once. Even if you are focusing majorly on one, there are always things to think about related to the drafts that you have done. Does this bit go here in this new chapter or should it be in another ? If I write this here, will I need to go back to this bit I thought I had finished and change some things there? If I say this now, then I have to remember when I write the next bit I’ll need to do…
Learning to juggle various bits and pieces of writing is hard. But juggle is the name of the writing game. And its important that the juggle, keeping all those writing tasks on the go doesn’t keep you awake at night. You have to find ways to manage the continued movement of finishing, starting and leaving at the same time.
Some people manage the juggle via lists. Im a bit of a list maker myself and I do find that having things written down helps to keep tasks in line, keeps them from acting up in order to get immediate attention, to rudely change their position in the queue. There are various apps that help with lists and various forms of journals. Lists and apps are simply ways of setting up a bit of a brain addition, an external cognitive support which leaves more of the writing-mind focussed on the task immediately in front of us.
Perhaps the last task for this month then is to make a list of what remains to be done. Find an app. Consider. What textual tasks do you see before you ? What order should they go in ? Which is really the most pressing ? What do you most want to do straight away and what can you leave without causing havoc with larger timelines?
And of course, while list making and sorting out what gets done when, it’s also absolutely necessary not to beat yourself up for all of the things you havent done. To forgive yourself for the things you wanted to write but didnt get around to. To make peace with the fact that this month you did what you could, when you could, and that is just fine.
And yes, thats me too, list making and being kind to myself about all the not yet done things.