Study Leave: Week 18

Writing progress update

Academics have lots of strategies for making progress with writing. Some are endless procrastinators, some have daily writing targets. Different approaches work for different people at different stages of a research piece, as the Twitter hashtag #writingpact attests to. The writing pact idea sees researchers of all levels from all around the globe publicly sharing their writing goals in the hope of attaining a greater sense of accountability and solidarity, especially for those enjoying a sustained period of writing (and the ‘isolation’ that comes with that).

I work a little bit differently. I know I can write, and I know how much I can write. What I can’t predict is exactly how much I’ll do each day. Some days my brain is not in the right place for writing, so I do other tasks instead, or take a day off research/writing altogether. I don’t promise myself I will write x hundred words on a given day, because I’ll simply be annoyed with myself at the end of the day if I don’t achieve it. It means I’ve got short-term targets which flex, even if the longer-term targets remain the same. At the start of my study leave back in February, I set the target of writing the first 3 chapters of my new book, totalling 34,000 words, by the end of July. The end-date for those 34,000 words is not in fact the final week of my study leave (which is next week), because I accepted that (a) the end of my official period of institutional study leave tallies with the start of the summer vacation period which is when most academics get a lot of their research done, (b) I would need that amount of time to get that many words done.

The upshot is that I am staring down the barrel of the approaching end of my study leave with 27,000 words already under my belt, with another week of study leave still to go, and at least another 5,000 words achievable within that time. It’s a huge achievement for me. And, more importantly, these are words which count, which have been edited pretty reasonably, and are not just words for the sake of words. In essence, I will have achieved my long-term writing target sooner than I planned. Which means I can crack on with the next chapter during the summer, keeping everything on schedule (or even a little bit ahead). I just hope that this isn’t the pride before the fall…!

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