This page provides further suggestions for those taking the 15-minute Academic Writing Challenge.
One of the reasons you find it hard to write is because it feels like a personal activity. Furthermore, your colleagues probably don’t say much about when they write, how much time they spend writing, what their process looks likes, or anything else. You can feel like everyone is doing more than you are but you really don’t know.
It will be easier to build a habit of writing if you feel less alone. I have a few ideas about how you can do that.
Create a support group
Get a few friends and colleagues to join you in the challenge. They can be a group of people who work in the same institution (or even department) that you see in person. Or, it could be a group of people you interact with regularly online.
Find a way to meet to talk about the challenge. If you are in the same institution a weekly lunch date might work. If you are a virtual group, set up a FaceBook group or have a regular Google Hangout or something. If you want to share your participation on Twitter, please use the hashtag #15minacwri. You know your friends. Use the platforms you are already using, even if that’s the coffee shop.
The goal of your group is to be supportive. Start with positive stuff: how many days you managed to write this week, what you are enjoying about the process, etc. Then move on to the frustrations and brainstorm ideas for making the process less frustrating.
Asking for support from colleagues
Ask for the support you need. Tell your colleagues that you are doing this challenge and why. It can be particularly difficult to talk about writing with colleagues who write a lot more than you do. Your colleagues might be openly disdainful about how little you write. Or, you may just be worried that they will be.
Deal with your own gremlins first:
- Make a list of all the things you have in common with those colleagues (individually or collectively).
- Make a list of positive or supportive actions or statements by them.
You don’t have to show those lists to anyone. It’s just good to remind yourself that despite the differences in your writing productivity, you do have things in common. At a minimum you want to be writing more. You both value this activity. You can start there.
Here are some possible scripts. Tweak as necessary to work better for you, but keep them positive and confident. Avoid being apologetic or self-deprecating.
I know I need to write more. My first goal is to make writing part of my daily activities. I’ve decided to try the 15-minute Writing Challenge. I’d appreciate encouragement. I’m not worrying about how much I write until writing becomes a habit. Please don’t ask how much I’ve written, but you can ask if I’ve done my 15 minutes today.
Try to avoid getting into competition (with others or with yourself) about how much you are writing. This could be an opportunity to share something about what you write about.
I’ve decided to use the 15-minute Challenge to work on […]. Are you doing the 15-minute Challenge? What are you working on?
Share something about your own experience before you ask someone else about theirs. Remember that what works for you may not work for someone else. You each get to have your own experience. Make sure to talk about your frustrations as well as the good parts.
I’m finding the 15-minute challenge [hard; interesting; frustrating …]. How are you finding it?
I’m surprised at how productive the 15-minute challenge has been. How has it been working for you?
I’m not sure if the 15-minute challenge is going to be productive for me. How has it been working for you?
Making writing more visible in your workplace
The goal of the challenge is to build a habit of writing. A secondary objective is to help build a work culture in which writing is more visible collectively in the workplace. The sign you put on your door not only helps set a boundary so you can get some writing done, it also makes writing visible to colleagues, students, and others who walk past your office. The secondary goal is to connect with your colleagues about your writing, even if you write about very different things.
Here are some sample scripts to get colleagues involved in making writing more visible:
It would help me make time in my regular work day to write if there was more visible evidence that other people do that, too. Do you write in the office? Would you be willing to put a Writing in Progress sign on your door when you are writing? [tell them where to download the sign, or print one out and give it to them]
Since writing is part of our responsibilities, I would really like to be able to do that here in the office. I’ve got a sign for my door. I will endeavour to only use it when I am writing. I’d appreciate if others would respect the sign and not disturb me during that time. Right now I’m only writing for 15 minutes a day so it shouldn’t inconvenience anyone.
Or start a conversation about how the challenge seems to be affecting the culture? Perhaps comment positively about the Writing in Progress signs:
I see you were writing today. Good for you.
I saw your sign earlier. I’m doing the challenge, too.
I love seeing all the Writing in Progress signs around the place.
It’s an experiment!
Everyone gets to tweak the process to make it work better for them. As long as you are all moving towards the goal of making writing part of your regular work and making your local environment more supportive of writing, then whatever you are doing is fine.
Edited April 1, 2016.