I just don’t have the time to write
Is this you?
Leanne has an academic job at an undergraduate focused institution. Research is part of her job description and she feels some pressure to bring in external funding, though her job doesn’t depend on it. She’s teaching 3 courses each semester. She had some teaching relief in her first year and managed to get some things published from her dissertation or post-doc research. She’s got more things in process and ideas for a next project but she really struggles to find time during the main part of the academic year.
To be honest, Leanne has counterparts in research intensive institutions. Elizabeth may have TAs but she needs to manage the TAs. She only teaches 2 course each semester but teaching preparation will fill the time you give it. Elizabeth cares about her students and she cares about collective governance. Her senior colleagues are supportive of taking time for research every week, but they are often less helpful about how to do it. Some of the colleagues who care about students and service the way she does admit that they work long hours and struggle to take weekends off.
Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash
A vicious cycle of optimism and disappointment
To make up for the lack of time for writing during the main teaching weeks, Leanne and Elizabeth try to write more during the holidays. This is difficult because they are tired at the end of semester. There’s also marking to do and preparation for the next semester. Over Christmas their family and friends expect them to be available for social engagements and, to be fair, they want to do those things. They’ve struggled to spend time with people they care about during the main part of the academic year, too.
It feels like they barely get into her writing again when the next semester starts. They both start off with good intentions about writing during term time. Because of her nominally lighter load Elizabeth is particularly optimistic. As the semester progresses, both Elizabeth and Leanne have become overwhelmed. They start working in the evenings and on weekends to try to get everything done. This is not sustainable, and they resent it. As the semester progresses, the accumulated fatigue means they struggle to focus on writing and it eventually gets dropped altogether.
They both begin to look forward to the summer. There is a good solid block of a few months to really dive into writing. Their scholarly associations’ annual conferences are also during that time, which provides a deadline to get something done. Leanne plans to finish up some of the work-in-progress and get it submitted before the next academic year starts. Elizabeth is writing a book. She hopes to make substantial progress on a couple of chapters.
Because summer is the only time they feel like they can really focus on writing and research, their plans are overly optimistic. Neither Leanne nor Elizabeth take into account how tired they will be at the end of the academic year, nor the time and energy that attending the conference will take. Partway through the summer, they both start to feel anxious about next year’s teaching and allocate some of their time to preparation. Both Elizabeth and Leanne really need a vacation but that would further reduce the time available for writing. They soldier on arriving at the end of the summer still tired and disappointed in how little writing got done.
The Studio helps you write throughout the year
Finding time to write means thinking about writing differently and developing a rhythm that respects the quality of time available as well as the quantity. It means devoting less time to other things. It means getting enough rest, and taking a vacation, because fatigue impairs cognitive function.
Group coaching sessions help you juggle everything. Annual and Quarterly planning sessions prompt you to anticipate challenges and provide support with specific issues so you can make reasonable plans. There are also Office Hours twice each quarter for support with anything you didn’t anticipate. Plans always go awry, but planning is useful and we are there to help you adjust as you figure things out.
A Meeting With Your Writing supports your intention to write during normal working hours even when you have a lot going on. You schedule time for writing the same way you schedule teaching and meetings. I recommend attending one session a week to start. Put it in your calendar and treat it the way you treat your synchronous teaching. You don’t have to prepare. You can just turn up. If you have to miss a week, commit to turning up the next week.
Not only is it harder to skip a synchronous group activity, if someone asks if you are available at that time you can say “I have another meeting”. I offer 3 sessions a week to increase the chances that one session will fit with your teaching timetable. If you like the format, there is a recording of the opening and closing bits available for members to download. It’s a bit weird to think you might want my voice in your head but some people find it helpful.
You will still write more during the summer. Your summer writing complements the writing you do at other times. And because you keep working on your projects all year, the transition into summer writing is less difficult. With less pressure on the summer, you can take the vacation you need and recover from the intensity of the teaching year at the same time. You can also focus on those parts of the writing process that really benefit from longer more intense attention. A Meeting With Your Writing gives you just enough structure to stick with your plans.
Once you have established a habit of writing regularly, you might want to attend the group coaching sessions focused on the effectiveness of your writing practice. Writing is difficult. Academic writing projects take a long time. Coaching and the support of a community helps you believe that you can do this job without compromising your values.
Still not sure?
If you don’t have a writing practice at all, you might want to start with the 15 minute per day Academic Writing Challenge (free). My book, Finding Time for Your Scholarly Writing will help you figure out how to fit that small practice in with other kinds of writing time.
You are also welcome to book a free consultation to discuss your needs. Or email me using this form.
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