So today marks two weeks since the start of #AcWriMo 2015 and the halfway point of the initiative. This is the first time I’ve engaged in #AcWriMo – short for Academic Writing Month – despite following the trend on Twitter for the past few years. I signed up for it on a bit of a whim in the last week of October, thinking that I didn’t have much on the go. November has conversely turned out to be an extremely busy month for me work-wise: I’m checking page proofs of a co-edited book on the avant-garde which will be published in Spring 2016; I’m participating in a Pecha Kucha event next week at the Belmont Cinema in Aberdeen; I’ve a book review due in at the end of the month; I’ve an abstract for a journal article due mid-December; not to mention all the other various publication projects I’ve currently got on the go in relation to my PhD thesis! I also work part-time (three full days a week) which limits the time I have to work on academic stuff. So signing up for #AcWriMo and pledging to produce the first draft of an article that I’ve not yet done a whole lot of research for was perhaps not the smartest move I’ve ever made.
That said, I’ve surprised myself thus far. The beauty of #AcWriMo is that your goals and plans are set by yourself. There are no external expectations. This venture is about knowing yourself, your limits and your potential and adapting your goals and plans to suit those. I pledged to produce a first draft of an article on mirrors and reflections in contemporary Spanish cinema and my plan was to write something, even if just a few words, every day. Because of other commitments, I’ve been tending to write in the evenings (as a morning person, not my most productive time of day) in front of the television, on the sofa next to my husband. Not the most conducive setting to productive writing, I know. But I’ve succeeded in writing most days (I think there have been just two days this month where I’ve not sat down to write) and I’ve produced a(n albeit very rough) draft of around 4000 words. It needs a lot of editing and refining but I’ve been amazed at how it’s all started coming together.
What I’ve found most revelatory is the extent to which just spending a little time every day over an extended period can produce such results. I tend to write in a very linear fashion. I usually do a lot of research prior to starting writing and I usually know roughly how I want to structure the piece and where I want to take it. Clearly, my ideas often change while I write and I might change things around but I still tend to work in a very linear way. In order to work this way though, I usually feel that I need a good chunk of time together to focus my thoughts and get my ideas down on paper. I’ve not been able to do this with my #AcWriMo stuff because I’ve only had snatches of time here and there to write. This has sometimes meant leaving sections unfinished and half-written and starting new sections when I’ve not finished the previous ones, which is an alien way of working for me. I’ve found it surprisingly productive, although I don’t think I could do it on a regular basis. My instinct is that, for me at least, this works as a short-term venture when there is a specific goal in mind.
What’s aided me in this shifting approach to my working methods is my use of Scrivener. Although I heard about this software a while back, I hadn’t got around to playing about with it. While I’m sure I’m not using it to its full potential at the moment, having only completed about half of the tutorial, I’m finding it conducive to the production of my draft article. Scrivener enables you to add new text files for each of the sections you are working on, as well as to paste files into a research area that makes the materials you are writing about more accessible (Figure 1). I think if I had started this article draft in Word (as I tend to do) I might have struggled to get going with this project.
So that’s my Day 15, half-way point round-up of #AcWriMo 2015 and how it’s working for me. I had hoped to write something at the end of every week to reflect on the process but time has not been my friend so far this month! I hope everyone else taking part in #AcWriMo is finding it as productive.