Friday, December 23, 2016

10 New Year Resolutions for Academic Writers

Colleague and scholar, Ana Isabel Canhoto, forwarded me a list of 10 New Year resolutions for writers, and challenged me to come up with one for academic writers.  Not one to let a friendly challenge go unmet, I present to you my list of ten, with brief discussions of each. Like many lists of this sort, the purpose is to help you reflect a bit, and make some decisions for yourself. I could have come up with more, and debated the importance, but I have some other writing to do!

1) Write at least five times a week-Yes, you have heard it perhaps a hundred times: daily writing beats binge writing. It is true, but if it were only that simple, we would not need resolution number two, which is really where the rubber meets the road.

2)  Work on emotional/behavioral/cognitive impediment to daily writing. Yes, it is easy to say "write daily" but many of us carry with us a range of psychosocial factors that get in the way of our daily writing. If you don't attend to these, you may find it far harder to be productive.

3) Write before any technology use. Yes, write before you email. Before you text. Before you Facebook. Before you Instagram. Before you whatever.

4) Attend to time wasting and distractions. See number three, but this is important. Develop writing rituals and habits that account for the importance of writing in your life. Also, understand that lack of time is almost always an excuse for not writing. Everyone has the time if they make it a priority. The question is, what are you doing with your time?

5) Select the journal and the word count for your article prior to starting. So much time is wasted by not making these decisions beforehand. Also, make sure you really understand how to select a journal. If you think picking the one with the highest impact factor or one that has, on paper, the shortest turn around time is all there is too it, you have a ton to learn about journal selection. Sadly, most faculty, even highly published ones, really don't think through journal selection well, and really don't have much to teach about it.

6) Learn to develop an architecture with word limits. Selecting word count, and the use of the magic paragraph, is key. Have not seen me write about these a great detail? True, I can't give away all my secrets :).

7) Develop and trust process goals. Develop daily processes that lead to positive outcomes. Be less worried about outcome goal, but more concerned with staying in process. If you want to learn more, check this out! 

8) Develop a plan for making changes. Having a simple change plan is important. Having it posted and reading it each day is essential. We can make long and elaborate plans, but if they are too complex and hard to follow, or if we don't review them daily, we are not going to change.

9) Find the help and support that you need to make changes. Book. Article. Mentor. Supervisor. Therapist. Coach. Editor. Rabbi.  Shaman. Guru. Priest. Imam. Therapy dog. Dog. Dog. We often need help when we set about making changes. There is no shame in this. Really. Truly. The shame is in not reaching out for support and help. We often say we can't afford it, but we can't afford not to.

10) You choose your final writing resolution. Post it here. Or tweet it to me. But, only after your daily writing :).


  1. That was quick! Very impressive. Thank you for taking the time to put this great list together.

    My word for 2017 is ‘completion’, which, in the case of academic writing, translates into going through the various papers and writing projects that I have started and do one of three things: write it, make it writeable, or move on.

    Write it: where relevant, I am making time to finish the manuscript (following point 5 in your list).

    Make it writeable: for papers that are not there, yet, I am planning how to fill in the gaps (e.g., collect more data, or look at some specific literature).

    Move on: for the other cases, I am removing them from my AcWri projects list. It is not about giving up on those particular projects, rather it is about getting rid of distracting entries.

    So, I suppose that my suggestion for point 10, would be to declutter your writing pipeline: write it, make it writeable, or move on.

    1. Great response, and so cool to see you considering how this may be integrating into your own process. I have a theory about the "number" of academic writing projects (academic) we can work on at any given time; I think that should be a post for the early new year!

  2. Brilliant advice. Will follow.

    1. Thanks Erika, Your always so wonderful. At some point, let us (or me :)) know what you did, and how you made it your own :).