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Lessons Learned from a Week and a Half of “Writing” #12weekarticle #AcWri

I worked through the first two weeks of Wendy Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks in about a week and a half. Here I am at the beginning of her Week 3, and she suggests writing up what you learned and sharing it, so that’s what I’m doing here.

A few reminders about my situation before I begin: I am the mother of an 11-month-old son, a full-time graduate student doing 4 credit hours of coursework and 5 credit hours of dissertation work, a research assistant with a 20 hour a week position, chronically ill with endocrine and autoimmune diseases, and a dilettante who feels all the joy is sucked out of life if I don’t get to spend at least a little time on personal interests.

And yes, all of that is relevant to my writing process.

Challenges

Managing time and attention is my biggest challenge. I have fifteen hours of paid childcare a week, plus whatever gifted childcare I receive from family members including my son’s grandparents and solo time his dad spends with him. It’s not a lot of time, and I don’t even use it that productively. I’m easily distracted and if I can’t focus I can’t write.

Also? It’s hard to work when I’m responsible for supervising a toddler. But there’s definitely more than 15 hours worth of work to do to meet my 56 hour obligation (36 hours coursework/dissertation + 20 assistantship), so I’ve got to figure out how I can get some work done when I’m with him, or start giving up sleep.

If I haven’t sorted out everything I need before a work session I putter and am at a loss. This is a skill I want to get better at: taking a little time at the beginning of a work session to plan, and at the end to wrap up.

If I don’t get writing done early in the day, I don’t get it done at all.

Solutions

One solution that has really been working for me is using the Pomodoro method to churn out four Pomodoros (25 minute blocks of work) in a row. I have four primary areas of work responsibility, each with writing involved: parental leave makeup work, dissertation hours (where I’m using the #12weekarticle techniques), coursework, and my assistantship. I rotate through these areas, doing one Pomodoro in each, and even if that’s all I get done in a day, I have at least knocked out two hours of solid work.

Working in spaces where I can’t hear the baby is huge. I go to a coffee shop or the library or even my back porch and I’m infinitely more productive than I am when I’m within hearing range of him – even two floors away, I can hear my sister nannying him, and it’s a distraction. Especially when he gets upset. So spending more time in those other spaces is totally worth the little bit of time it takes to get set up in them. (This back porch thing has been amazing – sunlight, a cool breeze, and concentration – thanks, autumn!)

Dedicating the time I need to setting up the plan for a work session has been going well, but I’m still working on the wrap-up part of things.

I need to ask for help from my husband at the beginning of a day – have breakfast with him and the baby, then whisk myself away for a couple hours – rather than waiting for him to check in with “Didn’t you need to get some writing done today?” because if it doesn’t happen before noon, I’m already too tired to get started.

Next Steps

1. Spend half an hour at the end of each childcare-protected work session planning both what work I can get done when I’m with the baby and what work I will do in my next protected work session.

2. Spend half an hour at the beginning of each childcare-protected work session planning what I will do for the rest of the work session.

3. Continue to work in spaces away from the baby.

4. Get my work session in first thing after exercise and breakfast.

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