Clearing the air

Sylvia Plath wrote “There is nothing that stinks like a pile of unpublished writing.” And man it stinks around here. I have piles upon piles of the stuff. Most of it is stuff that I brought from my work at the USDA/ARS to finish in “my free” here at PSU. And now there are a few things that are creeping onto the pile from my work here.

It is clearly time for a strategy for shoveling out the piles because manuscripts aren’t magically going to write themselves. So, I recently purchased and read the book “How to Write a Lot; A practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing” by Paul Silvia. You will soon see it around the conference room. Though not brilliant, it is a useful book. The first tip is probably the most obvious and the least used.

Schedule time to write and don’t let anything interrupt your writing time. Starting October 20 forward, I have scheduled 4 hours a week of manuscript writing during the day in addition to my hit and miss weekend sessions. When I write during those 4 hours, that will be 4 hours more writing than I am managing to write now. Planning to write is easy, but it is even easier to not keep your plan. I need to meet with faculty, students, or a dean or two and that is the only “free time” I have for those meetings. But it isn’t really “free time.” Dr. Silvia asks, would you let someone schedule a meeting, conference call, or other event during the time when you are teaching a class? Then why would you give up your time for writing when writing is the final product and proof of our research and for many of us Research is 70-75% of our jobs. How many more hours a week do you want to write? Schedule it and keep to your plan.

Several faculty, staff, and students have talked to me about this very issue over the past few weeks. So, I know I am not alone. Could we as a group schedule and keep writing time as sacrosanct? Could we encourage and reinforce this practice by understanding when our colleagues say, they can’t schedule a meeting, because it would interfere with their writing time?

If writing isn’t part of your job, I suspect you have equally daunting tasks either at work or at home that would benefit from this same commitment. Regardless, I am curious how you keep commitments to yourself. Next time we are eating lunch or having coffee, please share.

Have a good week everyone and let’s work to get rid of some of the stench.



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