With the academic year coming to a close and summer’s expanse of unstructured time looming, scholars face the perennial question of how to sustain their work, organize their writing activities, and ensure a productive season—all while relaxing and rejuvenating for the upcoming year. These tasks can be anxiety provoking, but here at MWS, our experience with academic writers and researchers has enabled us to identify ways for scholars to get the most out of summer without feeling overwhelmed. Read on for best practices for summer writing. …

  • Write every day. Maintaining a regular practice may well be the most important factor for a writer’s productivity (Gray, 2005). Research (Boice, 2000) suggests that prolific output depends on setting aside time every single day to write. Even 15 to 30 minutes a day suffices; what matters is that you jealously guard the time you’ve consigned to writing.
  • Redefine what it means to “write every day.”Tasked with the effort of creating a fresh argument, embarking on deep research, or polishing an edited piece for submission, scholars may become overwhelmed and give up on the idea of daily writing. To maintain momentum, redefine what it means to “write.” Consider: freewriting, or taking a blank page and free-associating to generate ideas; outlining a new projects; summarizing research relevant to a future project; editing an existing piece; pulling from or restructuring an older document to create a conference panel; finding or creating relevant visuals for an existing piece; formatting notes and references; creating a plan for revision and resubmission.
  • Keep a record of writing time and share it. Perhaps surprisingly, holding yourself accountable by simply sharing your writing habits with others (be it with colleagues or with a coach) can be a boon to your productivity. According to oft-cited research by Boice (1989), writers who write every day and who hold themselves accountable stand to increase their productivity ninefold over writers who do not change their writing habits nor hold themselves accountable. 
  • Create a calendar to structure large projects.The accountability engendered by a calendar can also serve as excellent motivation. When working with writers, we at MWS create interactive calendars detailing writing time, dates for editorial submission, editorial turnaround, revision, and defense or final submission. The long-term plan helps to alleviate the anxiety often provoked by large projects or long stretches of unstructured time.

Summer is around the corner, and with some advanced planning, it can be reinvigorating and productive.

References

Boice, R. (1989). Procrastination, busyness and bingeing. Behavior Research Therapy. 27(6), 605-611.

Boice, R. (2000). Advice for new faculty members: Nihil nimus. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Gray, T. (2010). Publish and flourish: Become a prolific scholar. New Mexico: New Mexico State University