The Write Stuff
Given the constant demands and competing priorities of academia, it’s no wonder many researchers feel they don’t have time to dedicate to writing projects. In order to be productive, academic writers need to intentionally set aside protected time for writing and create accountability for themselves. Below we’ve outlined a few tips and resources for meeting your academic writing goals.
Develop a regular writing routine
Making a commitment to consistent, frequent writing time is one of the most important practices academic writers can cultivate to increase scholarly productivity and success in obtaining grant funding. If you want to find writing time you need to schedule it, just like any other important activity. Start by blocking out time in your calendar for writing and treat it as if it’s an important meeting that can’t be missed. Pick time windows that are feasible everyday (or at least several days a week) for writing to help you develop a regular writing routine. Brief, frequent writing sessions (e.g., 30-60 minutes a day) are often more productive in the long run than “binge writing” to meet a deadline.
Set writing goals
Setting goals for writing sessions can help writers develop a plan and stay motivated. In his book How to write a lot: a practical guide to productive academic writing, Paul J. Silva advises that the best writing goals are concrete. For instance, instead of setting a goal to “get some writing done”, consider defining concrete goals for a writing session. Some examples of goals for a writing session could include: 1) write at least 200 words; 2) make an outline for your next journal article; 3) finish your Specific Aims page; or 4) read some sample grant proposals to get some tips. If you’re interested in seeing samples of successfully funded grant proposals, our UMMS Research Development team maintains a Grant Proposal Sampler (Level-2 login information required) for our faculty and staff to utilize.
Like many aspects of academia, finding a supportive network can help you establish good writing habits and increase your chances of success. To maintain accountability in your writing practices, consider asking a mentor or colleague to be your writing accountability partner. Some faculty also find Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs) to be helpful in improving writing productivity. To initiate your own WAG, check out Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s Writing Accountability Groups (WAGs) website for information and resources. The UMMS Research Development team is also available to assist Medical School faculty and departments in setting up WAGs.
For those interested in learning more about writing practices and time management, the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD) has on-demand webinars and workshops on these topics. The University of Michigan has a membership to this wonderful resource, so faculty and staff members can create an account to access the materials (when setting up an account, choose U-M as your institution). Examples of webinars available through NCFDD include How to Develop a Daily Writing Practice and Mastering Academic Time Management (a NCFDD account is needed to access).
When establishing a writing routine, you must find what works for you. Keep an open mind about the various methods that are available, and feel free to seek advice from colleagues and mentors who are productive writers. For more information about achieving your academic writing goals, or to express interest in joining a facilitated Writing Accountability Group, please contact Gina Stouffer (email@example.com).