Writing Challenge: The end, or is it?

A post by Anne JeffersonSciwrite by Chris Rowan“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” – Douglas Adams

I’m a week overdue for my final sciwrite check in, and I didn’t make my goal of submitting the manuscript by the time I arrived in San Francisco for AGU. The week leading up to AGU was insane, as conference prep and the end of the semester collided with a bout of the stomach flu. This past week was an extremely busy conference week, and the word document hasn’t seen many changes in the past two weeks. But I’m actually glad I didn’t make my submission-by-AGU goal, because the process of writing my talk was another useful step in gathering my thoughts and honing my message; I got good feedback on the talk; and I had a very helpful discussion with a mentor/editor about which journal the paper should go to. I’m flying home from AGU more confident that I’m on the trail of something neat and with more ideas for relatively painless analyses that will give the paper extra oomph. I’ve also started thinking about how I want this paper to be the beginning of further work on the topic, and how I might craft my ideas into a proposal in the next several months. Of course, I still want to get the paper off my desktop and into review in the near, near future, so I’ll be getting back to work on it just as soon as I finish this post.

I’m really pleased with the progress that I’ve made on this project over the past six weeks or so, and I know that if I hadn’t set myself a spirited goal and a vigorous timeline I wouldn’t have made as much headway. I think my take-away lessons were two-fold: (1) it is possible to work writing into my hectic daily routine, but only if I am willing to focus with laser-like determination on a self-imposed goal and able to let a few other things slide to make the writing happen and (2) a timeline is a good thing, but sometimes the science and the story is better served by missing a deadline and getting in another round of thinking and feedback before submission. I strongly suspect that the public accountability on the blog helped a bit, too!

I hope that sciwrite was motivational to others as well, and I’d love to hear how you all did and whether you took away any lasting lessons or practices that you’ll continue to apply. What’s next?

Categories: academic life, publication

Comments (3)

  1. @Lherzoliz says:

    I am looking forward to a couple of weeks away from classes and student advising so I can focus on writing… so for me, #sciwrite lives on through December.

  2. Hollis says:

    I didn’t make the deadline either — when I realized that data analysis was not going to happen any time soon, I quit working on the draft Results sections. But I got a lot done on those papers, work I would have been doing next spring. Thanks again for putting this together and providing motivation.

  3. Chris Rowan says:

    My aims ended up being a bit too ambitious, mainly because I underestimated how much data analysis needed to be done before our stuff was publication ready. But this has been a valuable exercise in pushing regular writing sessions into my daily routine, which will be an extremely useful habit to have gotten used to in the next few months. Thanks to Anne for giving us all a boot up the backside in November!