When I was 8-years old, Berry Gordy’s Bruce Lee homage The Last Dragon was my favorite movie. I was so in love with this movie that I took kung fu classes, I did flying kicks off my sofa, and I watched Bruce Lee movies with my dad so I could get the references.
This bit of American nostalgia is brought to you by the last day of Academic Book Writing Month. I first read about AcBoWriMo on November 1 and decided right then and there to participate. I did it because the dissertation kicked my ass all over like Sho-Nuff and it was time to declare that I was the master, not my diss. Now if only I could get that sweet glow while sitting at my desk.
As you can see on my counter over there, I only made it to about 1/3 of my whackadoo 30,000 word goal. But the glass half full version of this story is that in just one incredibly busy month I have nearly two new chapters of my dissertation.
Some responses to this past month addressing some of the AcBoWriMo guidelines:
To Word Count or Not to Word Count? In AcBoWriMo, there was some dissent regarding the word count goal. In jest: Leave it to academics to find controversy in anything. I decided to do the word count as a loose benchmark for me to measure my progress. But I had other benchmarks as well. After talking with a friend about dissertation goals and progress, she suggested a concept goal. She works until she gets three ideas or explanations down on paper. Seem vague? Well, I’m a humanities major so yeah, it’s a little vague, but it’s also highly adapatable. I also set time for editing, that way I don’t have pages of word diarrhea at the end of the month.
Community Support. It isn’t hyperbole when I say I would be NOWHERE without the amazing Twitter and Google Plus community of scholars, writers, parents, nerds, activists, et al. My morning routine now includes reading the (#AcBoWriMo) hashtag on Twitter over my coffee. Knowing that I’m not alone in what is often an inconsistent, fitful writing process is an incredible motivator. So to you all, I do hope you keep the posts coming under the new hashtag #acwri. In addition to reading others’ successes and slumps, I was accountable to the great wide internet. I don’t know about you, but promising a giant word count to hundreds of strangers was more motivation that anything my committee, husband, or brain could ever give me. You all made slacking impossible and you should all get a badge or the Medal of Freedom or something.
Plan. Plan. Plan. This doesn’t mean a minute by minute script of what you should do for the next hour/day/week/month/year. But I found it useful to end my writing day with some bullet points of what to do that day and the next. Also, I use the Pomodoro Technique and the Pomodairo app (Mac and PC) which allows me to label my pomodoros, so I always know where to put my focus for that 30 minutes.
Picking up where you left off. I had two different sets of houseguests this month, a week-long trip to Washington, DC, Thanksgiving, protests, and the flu. These are all some legit reasons to abandon #AcBoWriMo because I fell behind and my perfect month of work was suddenly imperfect. I learned that all months are imperfect. Hell, minutes are imperfect. But you just deal and then pick up where you left off. I made sure to set aside time to write when my houseguests were here, I worked in DC, and I took time to be sick rather than “powering through it” and prolonging the illness until the Spring. If you’re dealing with the heaviest that life can hurl at you, I highly recommend Charlotte Frosts post about working through tragedy.
Keep the count. Even though there’s only an hour or so left of AcBoWriMo here on the east coast, I can say happily that it was awesome. I plan to keep my word counter over there because I do eventually need to get to 30,000 words if I’m going to finish my dissertation. And I love coming to my blog and adding to the bar, it’s another motivator when I’m in the writing muck. I’m also pleased that #acbowrimo is now #acwri because I want to keep this going, I want to check in with you and I want to read how you’re all doing so long as I can lean on you from time to time.
Thank you so much to Charlotte Frost and everyone who participated. This was my best writing month ever, now on to the next one.