One step at a time

I’m in my second four-week session of the Academic Writing Club and am making a commitment to a daily (M-F) writing practice. The great thing about the AWC is that the commitment is not just theoretical; there’s a financial as well as personal commitment. As they say, a little skin in the game helps increase one’s focus on active engagement.

Even so, this summer has been a challenge.  I have a pretty heavy teaching load for a summer and, well, some days life intrudes and some days I just want a writing-free life.  Happily there are also days when things come together in the most beautiful way.  This week I hit kind of a low point — I submitted a manuscript to a journal (YAY!!!) and immediately reminded myself that I need to get back to another one.  The sensation was somewhere between a lump in my stomach and an image of a hamster on a treadmill.

When I took a moment to reflect, here’s what I learned:  productive writers keep writing, productive writers lead a balanced life (reminder about the importance of planning the week), and productive writers celebrate their success.

So just like the Iditarod racers (my favorite metaphor for this writing life), I needed to celebrate reaching a milestone on the journey, I needed to rest, then I needed to get back up and keep going.

Most important, I also realized that I didn’t need to finish the rest of the race in one writing session.  So, I opened the manuscript and gave myself 15 minutes.  I set a specific goal: work on the abstract.  And, well, you might have already guessed the rest: I actually spent 35 minutes — I worked on the manuscript, touched up a portion of the conclusion, drafted the introduction to the conclusion, moved the significance section closer to the introduction. After posting my on-line progress sheet, I set a writing goal for tomorrow.

Then I wrapped up so I could move on to other projects for the day.  The journey isn’t completed in one leap; it really is a whole lot of small steps, with rest stops & celebrations along the way.