This week, I have written something everyday: pitches, blog posts, drafts, and lists. I managed to finish an agonized column that I’ve been writing off and on for two months, and I should finish a review essay by early next week. I even sent off a pitch for a personal essay on tattoos, which is a topic that I tend to not be forthcoming. Last week, I finished a column and hit “publish” on two blog posts that had been hibernating in my Evernote files for at least nine months. There are more of those to come.
More importantly, I sat down with my files on my zombie manuscript this morning to strategically plan how to finish the damn thing. I’ve done more work than I thought I had (good), but there is still so much more to be done (not bad, exciting even). I feel like I am finally back in the writing groove after my slump this summer and early fall (also good).
Here’s the thing: I like writing. I actually enjoy it. Yes, it is often hard, but I am much happier with myself when I write. I feel productive. I process what’s happening in my life. I push all my torturous thoughts onto the page to get them out of my head. When they linger, they only do do damage. On my desk I keep a note that I wrote months ago. I keep trying to throw it away, but I can’t bring myself to. My frenetic scrawl reads, If I write them down, maybe I can let them go. It is my reminder to write out the thoughts, emotions, and things that trouble me. I follow, no more agony over what could have been. This is good advice that I often don’t take. Writing saves me from myself.
The most important lesson that I’ve learned in my transitional period is that the more I write, the less I have anxiety about writing. Writing is easier for me when I am in the habit. The corollary is also true: the less I write, the more anxiety I have about writing. Thus, I am getting back into the habit of writing every day no matter what.
With most of my writing projects (dissertation, journal articles, manuscript, and ebook), I set word limits for each day. After I met the word limit, I was free to do whatever I wanted. I could keep writing or I could run away from my computer as fast as I could move. This proved very effective, until I bailed on academia (and had two children rather than one). Word counts proved harmful when I could only write when children were asleep or entertained. Now, there’s preschool and Kindergarten, so I have more time to write than I did. I cannot emphasize how much this matters. Seriously.
Armed with more time and the pressing need to finish my zombie manuscript, I decided to use Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) as a kick in the pants. I need to build my writing habit, and this challenge gives me the excuse I need. (I have tried to this once before, but it was a spectacular failure. This year is my year.)
Here are my goals:
- Write two papers for AAR: 2000 words
- Write my three monthly columns: 4500 words
- Write two chapters (!) for my zombie manuscript: 30,000 words
- Redraft a personal essay for publication: 2000 words
- Two blog posts a week (1000 words) X four weeks=4,000 words
- Two NEW pitches (250 X 2)=500 words
My goal for Academic Writing Month is 43,000 words. Gulp. Go big or go home, I guess.
Who’s going to join me?