18 Dec

my long overdue #acwrimo wrap up post

I started out AcWriMo with an ambitious plan: I was going to write 1666 words of findings every day in November. 50,000 words in one month, just like NaNoWriMo participants do.

The only problem with this goal was that I wasn’t actually ready to write on 1 November. I still had several transcripts to code and I was still integrating codes to form categories. It wasn’t until 11 November that I actually had my categories pretty sorted, but even then, I still had transcripts to code before I could write.

So in reality, the sun was setting on November before I got going on writing in earnest. That meant that in terms of writing, my AcWriMo really kicked off in late November and lasted until yesterday. But during November, I did do a lot of coding, analysis, synthesis and sense making throughout the month and I really feel like participating in AcWriMo spurred me on during this period of working intensely on figuring out what my findings look like.

Yesterday I finished writing up my categories, just over four weeks after I started. Four weeks ago, I had 17 categories grouped into three broad streams. As I wrote, I consolidated these and I ended up with 13 categories that formed part of a single core category. The category write ups on their own (excluding the write up of the theory and discussion of how the categories relate to each other, which I haven’t done yet) amounted to 40,016 words. I didn’t make it to 50,000 words on my findings chapter, but I did write just shy of another 10,000 words on other parts of my thesis. Although my month was more like six weeks, I did manage to hit my AcWriMo goal.

At the beginning of November I was panic stricken. I had two months left of my sabbatical and I hadn’t written a single word (well, apart from in memos). My teaching and service commitments for 2014 mean that at the end of January, I will no longer be able to do ‘thinky’ work on my thesis. I will probably manage revisions, but I need to have the hard stuff done. My goal of having a full draft of my thesis by Christmas was (and still is) completely shot and I thought I had no hope of getting a draft done by the end of January, either.

Now, I am slightly more optimistic. Assuming what I’ve written is okay (and I don’t know that yet – I’ve only just sent it to my supervisors for feedback), I may just make it. Or at least, I may be able to draft the remaining chapters, excluding my conclusion. What I won’t get done is revisions to my method chapter (which I wrote about 20 months ago for confirmation, and it needs updating) and I won’t have had time to incorporate any feedback. When I write about this, I feel pretty panicked. But the reality is, this is doable.

AcWriMo came at exactly the right time for me and the sense of community and accountability really helped. I get a lot of support from a friend who is at a similar stage in her write up, but AcWriMo added an extra layer.

But the single most valuable thing about AcWriMo for me was that I realised writing is bloody hard work for everyone – not just me. This realisation boosted my confidence and buoyed me up. So thanks, AcWriMo organisers, for making a real difference in my experience of writing my thesis.

13 Dec

my academic writing productivity pattern is shot

I’ve written about 40,000 words in the last four weeks. But I could have written more.

I have noticed a pattern and today, in one of my bazillion chats with my virtual office / PhD buddy, she articulated this pattern perfectly and I went “ohemgee, you’re right”.

The pattern goes like this: mad, crazy, frantic productivity > flailing about trying to be productive > complete lack of productivity > repeat.

I can write up to 4000 words in a day. (I know: I am very, very lucky.) But the next day, I invariably spend most of the day trying to get started and hating myself for my lack of motivation, my lack of discipline, and my ability to be busy doing nothing all day. So on day two, I rarely actually get any writing done.

And that’s a problem, because once I have a break from writing, I get stuck and I find it incredibly difficult to get past the inertia and get writing again.

Everyone talks about the sprint to the PhD finish line. And almost everyone talks about how it’s not actually a sprint, but a marathon. My problem is I’m attempting to run the marathon at sprint pace. So I’ll pump out 2000 or 3000 or 4000 words and at the end of the day I’ll practically fall over the finish line. The next day, I brush myself off and take another look at the finish line I crossed the day before and I realise it was actually a mirage, and the *real* finish line is about another million kilometres away. And then I am filled with despair over how much track lies in front of me so I stop and look for four leaf clovers. Then I crawl a bit more. Then I watch the crowd. Then I do some online shopping. Then the day is over and I’ve gone nowhere and I know that tomorrow the distance I have to make up is going to feel completely and utterly overwhelming so I’ll just do nothing and then that’s it!

I’m no longer running the race.

I stopped.

I have to go back to the blocks and start all over again. And that takes a whole lot of mental preparation.

04 Dec

advertisers, you’re wasting your money

There is something ridiculous happening in my web browser.

I keep seeing ads for products I’ve already bought.

Like the ad for the Herschel Supply Co Novel Duffel in Apple that I’m seeing based on the fact I’ve looked at it on seven different sites. Visiting seven different sites means I’m interested enough to shop around for a good price. And guess what? If I’m pursuing it that hard, I’ve probably already bought it. Why not show me the matching wallet instead?

And that dress I’ve looked at on Asos 12 times? I’ve already bought that too. In fact odds are, if I’ve looked at a particular item more than once or twice, it’s already winging its way to my post box.

But you know how I’ve looked at 12 different belts in the last week, and never the same one twice? That’s an indication that I’m after a belt and I haven’t found one that suits. Show me some belts and I might just buy one.

It’s so simple, really. Analyse my online window shopping and show me related or complimentary items, and your advertising dollars will have some impact.

Because right now, you’re wasting your money with the duffel bag ad. And out of frustration (and a need to procrastinate about thesis writing) I am clicking all these ads for things I’ve already bought. I’m spending your advertising dollars, one frustrated click at a time. Muah-ha-ha!