Writing During the Academic Year

As the new school year begins, I am thinking about practical ways of sustaining my writing amid the demands of the semester.

This Fall I am teaching three classes–2 sections of the first half of the United States history survey course and an upper-division course on colonial America. I serve on three very active college committees and advise a dozen or so students. I also attend regular faculty and department meetings. Some think this load is very heavy. Others, including my readers who are high school teachers, might think I have it easy.

This Fall, in addition to teaching, I need to finish a book manuscript, which is due at the publisher on January 15, 2010. I also need to complete a few other smaller writing projects and prepare a few public talks. I usually start the semester with high hopes of making progress on various projects, but within a few weeks I become overwhelmed by the day to day life of the semester and end up punting on everything else. This Fall, with deadlines approaching, punting is not an option. I need to sustain my writing during the semester.

I know some of my readers have become quite good at balancing their scholarly/writing work with their teaching responsibilities. What works for you? When do you write during the semester? How do you balance writing with the busyness of the semester? Is such balance possible.

Any tips would be much appreciated.

5 thoughts on “Writing During the Academic Year

  1. I make it part of my weekly schedule. If teaching, research, and service are all what we are supposed to do, and I can point in my weekly schedule and calendar book the times when I have classes and times when I have meetings, I need to be able to point to times when I fulfull that third obligation. Whatever it ends up to be: two hours on Monday morning; every Monday and Wednesday morning; one hour every afternoon with the door closed; Whatever it is – I PUT IT IN MY SCHEDULE BOOK and when someone wants something at that time, I can say, I'm busy then! Because I am.

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  2. While not scholarly, I too find it difficult to get the writing I need done in the midst of other demands on my time. I'd agree that the key is to have some extended period of time (of a couple hours or so) without other distractions. Unfortunately, that usually means Saturday mornings are when I get writing done, which can be stressful when writing a sermon for that night or the next morning!

    I can't remember how I stumbled across it, but a blog entry about the manager's schedule (hourly intervals) and a maker's schedule (half-day chunks) made a lot of sense to me.
    http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html

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  3. I think trying to do some writing every day (or at least perhaps six days a week) is a good plan, particularly as deadlines approach. I like to find big chunks of time if I can (many things can wait until tomorrow if you let them). On busy days, there's always nighttime with a cup of coffee when everyone else has gone to sleep. I feel much better about the approaching deadline if I've made some progress, even if it's just a terribly worded paragraph. Of course, I didn't manage that today…

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  4. People who seem to know more about this issue than I do suggest learning to write regularly in short blocks. The myth, they say, is that longer blocks of time are needed to “really write.” I'm going to try following their advice this semester.

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  5. I'll tell you how I do it: No kids.

    (I'm teaching 24 credits this semester. 9 traditional lecture, 9 online and 6 running a simulated business.)

    I have a significant other but we've been together for 11 years, so no need to spend too much time there.

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