Writing Challenge, Week 3: Slow and steady

A post by Anne JeffersonSciwrite by Chris RowanIt’s been three weeks since I issued the initial challenge to join me in a month-ish of intense writing activity. Last week I needed to redefine what I meant by making satisfactory progress, and several of you shared your own stories or definitions of progress in comments or tweets.

This week I did not encounter any unexpected barriers to progress, but I was forced to remind myself of the children’s story about a sprinter and a plodder. I never had a breakthrough moment of rapidly advancement this week, but manuscript-related word documents, PDFs, excel files, and figures filled up my task bar almost all week. Image of taskbar showing all the paper-related files open

According to my rather optimistic timeline, I should have everything but the conclusions written by tonight. I don’t. Last Sunday, in a bout of free-writing I got a great introduction drafted, but going through it, double checking things, and adding appropriate references has taken substantial time this week. This time last week, I had about 600 words and no references in the introduction. Now I have ~550 words that are complete with citations and another ~500 to go. I’ve continued to tinker with methods and results, and I’ve delegated some tasks to my co-author. I don’t have a discussion written yet, but it is gestating.

The other place where some progress was made this week was in the figures. There will be four, but several will have multiple parts. They are slowly being drafted in ArcGIS, R, and a combination of JMP/Inkscape. I always make sure that my figures are publishable quality and file formats before the initial submission, just in case I don’t have to revisit them later in the review process. But this means monkeying around with seemingly small details now, and learning some more R tricks along the way. Again, I’m not where I wanted to be with figures, but I’m on my way.

This week is a short work-week, but my goal is to get an almost complete draft to my co-author mid-week. I then need to turn my attention to the increasingly scary, looming presence of my two talks for AGU. I’m hoping that I can get at least one whipped into shape late in the week, so that I can head into a very busy week-before-AGU still able to keep working on this paper. December 3rd is not getting any farther away!

Anne's progress this week is comparable in speed to a Galapagos tortoise, but just like them, I'll get there eventually. (photo by A. Jefferson)How about you? Have you been slow and steady? Or making progress in periodic bursts? Either way, I’m confident we’ll all get to the finish line together.

Categories: academic life, by Anne, publication

Comments (11)

  1. Dana Hunter says:

    Amongst the more superstitious segments of the population, my severed foot would be considered a lucky charm. Put it like that.

    When I begin to feel overwhelmed by what I’ve taken on, I’m just going to refer back to what you need to have accomplished by Dec. 3. That will stop my wining instantly. Best of luck, Anne!

  2. SnowHydro says:

    I’m not even steady, just slow.
    My co-authors are MIA so I’m working on my AGU talk – which is going well.
    Good luck with your two talks and maybe see you there!

    • Definitely would like to meet you! Will you go to the social media soiree on Monday night?

      • Sarah says:

        Just checked back now and saw your response. Unfortunately have had to cancel AGU entirely due to family emergency. Very disappointed as was looking forward to mountain workshop, Social Med soiree, Tufte communication workshop, invited talk, etc. Maybe next year? :(

  3. Like SnowHydro, I’m just slow. I only processed some data for my AGU poster (which I hope to finish by the end of this week), but didn’t write a single word. I’ve dedicated tomorrow to writing on my second goal, which MUST be finished by the end of Thanksgiving break. The next two weeks will be BUSY! Good luck with your talks!

  4. Hollis says:

    I’m slow too. My goal for the week was drafts of the Methods sections, but for one of the papers it is tough going as it includes the most challenging part of the project — assessing vegetation quality. so I’m either still working on it or will stop at a very rough draft.

  5. Brian Romans says:

    My two goals for #sciwrite: (1) first draft of proposal to be submitted after new year, and (2) first draft of manuscript including figures.

    Way more progress on #1 than #2 so far … at this point I’ll be happy with a detailed outline of #2 done by AGU.

  6. Lab Lemming says:

    Chaperoning visitors all month. Count me out. I’ll be lucky to throw together my AGU talk at the last minute.

  7. I’m making slow progress. My mom asked me the other day where I was at with my thesis, and I reminded her that I’ve already asked her not to ask me that, because it’s so hard to quantify.

    Just when I was getting on a roll about ten days ago, something unrelated to my thesis came up, I lost quite a few days of productivity. As a result I’m not where I wanted to be right now, but I’ve had a few breakthroughs in the last few days (usually in the wee small hours of the night) that have resulted in me being very close to finally finishing compiling my datasets and visualizing the results. This has been a huge hurdle for me, so I’m hopeful that I can still have a completed draft of my thesis by the end of #sciwrite.

  8. @Lherzoliz says:

    Well, I’m half a week behind everyone else for my three week update! (But I did start a week late). I got stalled out on an error calculation for the paper I was working on- and then I realized that I needed to write up another project which involves a lab for my petrology course / a coauthor waiting. So, I collected data on Tuesday, wrote the methods, made a table, and wrote part of the results on Friday, drafted three figures and finished the results today. I hope to get this done before classes start again on Monday.
    Most importantly, I got some SLEEP and respite from email and constant office visitors over the past week.

  9. Karen says:

    A non-academic here, a month after submitting my MS thesis to the university (I haven’t heard back yet): there are humps and playas in any writing; you will feel like you haven’t got a clue about the hump writing, and speed across the playa writing. That’s okay. The hump writing may be some of your best (or not); the same with the playa writing. Just write. You can be/ must be editor later. Just write.