I used to have a colleague who every spring submitted their final grades and printed out their syllabi for the fall semester while I was still slogging through blue books. Although I was impressed by their organization, it always made me feel like my summer was doomed before it even began. Chances are if you’re reading this, you might be feeling something akin to my fears that the whole summer is going to be wasted if you’re not already deep into your academic writing by Memorial Day.
Nonetheless, the truth is that’s it’s only June 11 and there’s still plenty of time for you to be the master of your writing destiny! Don’t fall into the trap that it’s already too late for you to have a productive summer. Here are some of my suggestions for breaking out of your summer lethargy:
1) Be mindful. What is really at the center of why you’re not working on your academic writing? There are many things that could be mentally keeping you from delving into your inner scholar–insecurity, exhaustion, ambivalence, just to name a few. Now is the time to be honest and address these concerns–both real and imagined.
2) Clear the decks. For those fortunate enough not to be teaching summer classes, this is the time to give your mind a break from writing lectures, grading, and dozens of student emails. And even if you are teaching or preparing a new course for the fall, give yourself some chunk of time to devote exclusively to your academic writing. Whether it’s a week, a month, or some time every day, keep your writing time sacred.
3) Make realistic goals. Building on the idea of setting aside a regular time for academic writing, it is important to create practical goals. Useful goals are ones that break your work into small, do-able steps and provide an easy way to track your progress. While there’s a plethora of apps and software that you could use, I find that keeping a simple spreadsheet of my time and word counts tends to work best for me.
Pro-tip: If you know what you need to accomplish this summer, set your goals by working backwards. If your manuscript must be sent to the publisher by the end of the summer, be honest about how much is left to do and divide up the work by months, weeks, days, and even hours. Sometimes putting it all in writing can actually alleviate some of the stress and anxiety related to making an important deadline.
Thanks to Dr. Joanne Hill who tweets @ontheblueyonder for reminding me of the importance of goal making!
4) Get active. Maybe you live in a locale where it’s sunny and 70 degrees every day. If so, more power to you, but I sure don’t. Therefore, now is the time to get outside and be active. Soak up those rays–albeit with a layer of sunblock–and enjoy the great outdoors. Treat yourself to a daily walk in your neighborhood or on the newest addition to your local rails-to-trails. Go swimming at your public pool. Spend time with your kids in the park. Whatever it is you enjoy doing, get out and do it.
Still not convinced that you can spare the time away from your desk? Well, remember, academic burnout is a very real thing and you need to make time to be good to yourself. In the end, your writing will thank you. If you’re still not convinced, check out Tanya Maria Golash-Boza’s latest post on her blog, Get a Life, PhD.
5) Find inspiration. When was the last time that you read something in your field just because you were interested and not for your research or a class? Pick up one of those unread copies of your professional journal gathering dust on the bookshelf and read the first article that catches your eye. Find something new by one of your favorite scholars and just read for the sheer pleasure of learning something new.
If you haven’t already, start keeping a list of books in your field or just on writing in general to fuel your desire to sit down at your desk and put words on the page. I highly recommend designating a bookshelf on Goodreads to books that will remind you why you love writing in the first place.
What are your biggest obstacles to making progress on your academic writing over the summer? Have you developed any good strategies? Please feel free to share in the “Comments.”
Here’s to a productive and restful summer!