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.

12 Nov

and on the 11th day…

She refocused. She being me, and the 11th day being yesterday.

I kind of lost my writing momentum a couple of days into #acwrimo. I got some feedback from one of my supervisors about my draft categories and I spent most of last week working with that. This initially involved playing around with pens and paper and thinking a lot about how my categories fit together to form a theory.

And then I spent a couple of days building my categories and sub-categories (and yes, there are sub-sub-categories here, but these aren’t really sub-sub-categories – just points I want to make sure to note in the discussion of these categories).

Spreadsheet of categories

And then I took this spreadsheet and built myself a new codebook in HyperRESEARCH (I’m planning a blog post on using HyperRESEARCH for coding in grounded theory down the track, because I’ve worked some things out that I would like to have known from the beginning).

Screenshot of codebook

Then I coded a couple of transcripts with my new codebook and I realised my findings are finally starting to sing. At long last, I am not adding stacks of codes to the codebook as I work. I’m no longer finding variation, but instead, I’m just coding up new examples. Cue overwhelming sense of relief.

A short-lived sense of relief, though, because yesterday I realised I only have six weeks left of my sabbatical. And a lot of writing to do. My workload next year won’t allow me to spend very much time on my PhD at all – if any. At least for the first half of the year. So I am pushing hard for the next six weeks to get my findings written and my lit review revised.

Yesterday, I did the last bit of work on conceptualising how my categories fit together. I refocused and revised my timeline as well as my practical plan for getting this thing done.

And on that note, I think it’s time to write.

04 Nov

#acwrimo update: day four

I blogged last week about challenging myself to write 1666 words a day with my own version of NaNoWriMo, which I called DisWriMo. Since then, I’ve jumped on the AcWriMo bandwagon but my plans haven’t changed – I’m still aiming to write 1666 words a day on my thesis in November.

Except today I didn’t write any words at all. But I’m not beating myself up about it, and here’s why.

Over the first three days in November, I managed to write 4704 words. This is more than I’ve written on my thesis since my confirmation seminar in April. April 2012, that is.

I didn’t realise it had been so very long since my confirmation. And that meant I didn’t realise it had been so very long since I wrote anything related to my thesis. I think I had a mental block about thesis writing and the first three days of AcWriMo helped me to break that.

This is really important, and not just because I need to churn out words, stat. It’s important because I sense-make by writing. I know that. I’ve always known that. And yet I haven’t been accommodating that particular work style. I felt like I had to code All The Transcripts before I started writing, and I’ve been putting off writing while I did that. The trouble is, I have found coding really difficult. Not intellectually (although it’s true that it is challenging), but motivationally (I’m not even sure that’s a word). I’m okay one I’m coding, but making myself get started – in the morning, after a Pomodoro break, on a new transcript – has been bloody hard. I think this is partly because I really got into the spirit of initial coding and I was generating codes like a crazy woman. I had nearly 2000 by the time I’d done the first five transcripts. And then I spent weeks and weeks and weeks sorting them, resorting them, recoding the same pieces of data to check myself… ┬áSo I was stuck at this really detailed level of coding and I couldn’t quite figure out how to move forward, and I think that happened because I wasn’t letting myself write and so I was struggling to sense make. The writing I did over the first three days of AcWriMo has helped me to conceptualise the structure of my emerging findings.

This morning I sent 3000 words about the structure of my categories to my supervisors. It feels like I’ve actually *done something*. Finally.

So I’m just going to celebrate that and accept that what I did today was just as necessary as writing and see what happens tomorrow.

Since I still have transcripts to code (I hoped I’d be done by the end of October. Or September. Or August. But let’s not go there.), I am revising my daily goal a little bit for the next week. This week I’m going to aim for 750 words a day and one transcript coded. But for now I’ll leave my monthly target at 50,000 words and see how I go.