Saturday, November 30, 2013

#AcWriMo Brought Me Back For More

This was my second year participating in the annual #AcWriMo - Academic Writing Month. You can read more about the concept here. There's a lively online community of people participating, commenting, and sharing strategies, and as you can tell by the hashtag, much of this is done on Twitter. There's also a massive GoogleDoc spreadsheet where everyone declares their goals for the month and reports on their daily achievements. I think this year we had around 700 people declare their intent to participate. This type of constant, but slightly anonymous, accountability offered by the spreadsheet seems to work really well for me.

Last year's #AcWriMo was incredibly productive for me, as it got me on track with consistent writing and built some habits that allowed me to write a complete, but very rough draft of my dissertation in about three months. The most critical thing about #AcWriMo for me last year was finding out first-hand the importance of daily writing. It's not just a matter of slowly chipping away at a big project through steady work, but daily writing also builds momentum, and over time you are able to write more and more.

Last year I also discovered the beautiful software that is Scrivener, which I now swear by for writing anything longer than the shortest conference paper, and Skim, a FREE PDF annotation software that lets you mark up even un-OCRed documents. Added to Papers, for bibliography and digital library management, and these are the three programs I run constantly. People clued me into a host of other apps for Mac, most of which are free or run online and which boost productivity significantly. When I really want to crank out work I run FocusBooster (a free pomodoro app) and give myself some low background noise from Coffitivity. It's a blissful, productive bubble. I should also give a shout-out to the PhDometer, which has the benefit of counting total words written, not just the words you keep, which is what Scrivener or Word do. The PhDometer is a more reflection of the creation and editorial process involved in (particularly) academic writing.

Last year was so productive, and helped me develop some really great writing habits, so it was really a no-brainer to jump in again for this year's run. I even got tapped to help with the organization this time around. I'll be back with a post in the next few days reflecting on how this year's month went for me.

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