It’s been a week since I issued the initial challenge to join me in a month-ish of intense writing activity. I’ve seen use of the #sciwrite hashtag pick up on Twitter, and 41 of you have now publicly committed to the project. As promised, here is a weekly check-in post documenting my progress and struggles during the week, and asking you to share yours. My update is below the fold, and I hope you’ll share yours in the comments here or on your own blog, with a link here. Remember, this is all about mutual support and accountability! Chris has also made this charming icon that you are welcome to use on your blog, if you’d like.
So, how’s it going? Are we making progress?
What I’m writing: I’m writing a paper based on a thesis chapter completed by one of my M.S. graduates, Ralph McGee. When Ralph defended in May, he and I agreed that he would take the lead in turning one chapter of his thesis into a paper, and I would take the lead on the other one. The paper I’m leading will focus on the development and extent of ephemeral channel networks in the Piedmont. I’m also giving a talk on this topic at AGU, so I need to get my thoughts in order by early December, and writing the paper seems like a good way to order my thoughts.
How it’s going: At the beginning of the week, I had disorganized words, sentences, and paragraphs in the introduction, mostly complete setting and methods sections, and a partial results section. I spent the first part of the week doing more thinking and reading for the introduction, and I now have a plan, though it’s still not implemented. Later in the week, I turned to the results section, and spent Friday working hard on describing the channel network in terms of overall watershed morphology and evolution. I’ve got almost 600 words in this section, and I’m pretty happy with most of them, although there’s a couple of unfinished ideas in there still. I also decided that I need to have a multi-part figure to go with this section, and I lined up someone to help me transform ugly Excel graphs into publication-quality images in R. (Hi, Chris!)
Am I making progress? When I was nearing the end of my Ph.D., I set my defense date, several months out, in order to accommodate my committee’s travel schedules and to ensure I was done before the start of the following academic year. As I worried about whether I would make the deadline, one of my committee members gave me a piece of advice that I now apply on every big project, and which will sound familiar to my graduate students. This mentor told me to make a backward calendar. Once a deadline is set, figure out when the step before that needs to be done, and then figure out when the step before that one needs to be done, and so on. Make those personal deadlines, commit to them, and meet them. I’ve since learned that sometimes, despite my best intentions, life intervenes and I miss some step-by-step deadlines, but giving myself a map of how the whole project needs to proceed makes the project/proposal/paper much more likely to actually get done in a timely fashion. Here’s my backwards calendar for this paper:
Saturday, December 3rd: Leave for AGU. Submit paper using free wi-fi at the airport.
Monday, November 28th: Send manuscript to coauthor for final input. While I’m waiting for Ralph’s green light, I’ll make sure all references are in the right format, write a cover letter for the journal, and identify potential reviewers. I’ll also write the exam I’m giving while I’m away and my two AGU talks. (This is not insane. One is based on the paper. The other is a shorter version of the talk I gave in the Galapagos, with hopefully some new data from a co-author.)
Wednesday, November 23rd: I’ll use my Thanksgiving
break child-care free time to get figures into final form, write the abstract, and put polishing touches on the text. I’ll also eat well and enjoy time with my kid.
Monday, November 21st: Conclusions will be written.
Friday, November 18th:Introduction and complete setting section will be written. I’ll send the paper as-is off to my coauthor for feedback.
Monday, November 14th:Discussion will be written.
Friday, November 11th:Complete methods and results will be written. Discussion and introduction will be in progress. All figures will be in at least draft stage.
Monday, November 7th:Current part of the results section will be completed. Multi-part figure will begin transitioning from Excel to R.
Right, then, sounds ambitious but hopefully do-able. Your turn.