Ok, so here it goes. First of all, I've been out of the groove with (non-blogging, non-syllabus, non-assignments-for-students) writing lately - and by "writing" I suppose I mean the expanded definition, which is researching and writing. In part, this is because I was pretty much fried and I needed a break. What was I fried from? Well, I finished my dissertation in 2003 (defending it in August) and started my job here in August 2003. Yes, this means that I was revising my dissertation while I was on the market. Then, I started this job and fell into another research project on non-diss-related stuff, that resulted in three conference papers and an article that will come out this year. After all of that? Well, I decided to take some time off to rejuvenate. Which means that I haven't really been in a solid writing groove since May 2005. But now it's time to get back in the saddle.
As Dr. B. mentioned in her post, we all have heard the "write first" motto. Guess what? I have never in the history of time been able to do that. I am no good in the morning. I can't do sophisticated, deep thinking in the morning, and that's what academic writing requires for me. Can I teach in the morning? Sure. Can I grade in the morning? Depending on the assignment, yes. But no, I cannot write in the morning. And so I don't.
During the academic year, the shape of my days has been pretty much the following:
6-7 AM - wake up, futz around, feed Man-Kitty, drink coffee, etc.
9AM-12 Noon - teach/office hours/etc.
12 Noon- 5 PM - futz around, waste time, blog, deal with email, go to a meeting if I've got one, think about all of the crap I'm not doing, grade, nap, etc.
You will notice that there is no time built in for writing in that regimen. This is the thing that I'm trying to rectify this semester. I have always been most successful at getting research/writing done when I have a plan. If I've got tiny goals to achieve, and if I schedule time in which to achieve them, I get what I need to get done done. Also, I need to have a regular schedule. One of the things that I think is hardest about this profession is the level of self-motivation that it requires. On the one hand it's difficult to prioritize, but the other piece of the puzzle is that after one has chosen one's priorities one actually has to do everything to get those things achieved without (any) guidance or support. Thus, I've got to be a slave-driver to myself in order to be a productive academic.
It's so easy to let research/writing fall by the wayside because 1) unlike with teaching, where students will bitch if you don't fulfill your end of the bargain, nobody really cares whether you research/write or not; 2) unlike with service, the machinery of the university or department or whatever doesn't immediately fall apart if you don't research/write; 3) unlike with blogging, you have no (immediate) audience to please by researching/writing. [Aside: #3 had a lot to do with why I moved blogs - I really want to write about the research/writing I'm doing outside of the blog in my blogspace, something I wasn't comfortable doing before. And so, in that vein, let me just say that I got one of those conference proposals that I was talking about in my first post done this afternoon! Yippee! It might be a piece of crap, but I am interested in pursuing the topic, and I'd argue that it's better done than simmering - and how much can a girl really say in approximately 200 words anyway? God, I hope I'm not rejected....]
The times when I've been most productive with researching/writing I've blocked off time each day to work on things related to the writing. I've not finalized my schedule for this semester yet, but I suspect the shape of my days is going to look something like the following:
7 - wake up
9-11 - teach
11 - lunch
12-2 - time for reading/research
2-3 - notes on plans for reading/research accomplished
3-5 - go to the gym (not for two hours, but in that two hour window. I may be on a health kick, but I'm not insane)
Tuesday and Wednesday: (Primarily teaching days/meeting days, so I won't do research/writing, though I will make notes in my research journal should I have ideas and I will think about what I'll do with my time on Thursday and Friday)
7 - wake up
10:30-12 - teach
12 - lunch
1-3 - outline, related to work done on Mondays, read necessary material to fill in gaps of Monday's work, make plans for Friday, which is the big writing day
3-5 - gym
7 - wake up
9-11 - teach
12-5 - WRITE (but not just willy-nilly; in relation to the plans that I've made throughout the rest of the week. And if I finish those plans before 5, then I'm allowed to stop or I can use the time to write in my research journal about plans for the coming week.)
And you'll notice I've mentioned my research journal a couple of times. Yes, I keep one. Yes, I rarely actually go back to the research journal once I've written anything in it, but at the same time it's been a good technique for me to use writing-as-thinking and to start writing when I feel like I don't have anything to say. I would never blog what I write in the research journal because it's very fragmentary and often takes the form of crude drawings (and I'm no artist) to try to sketch out the shape of my ideas and argument. I cannot recommend the research journal idea enough to those of you who've not tried it.
So yes. This is what I'm hoping my schedule will look like this semester. If I can stick to it even 60% of the time, I'll be entirely happy (and probably the most productive I've been since writing the dissertation).