My #AcWriMo plans

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

This is my #AcWriMo accountability post. Like #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this event is geared to help people make writing a daily habit, to set specific measurable goals, and to provide the social support and public accountability to help meet those goals. The event is sponsored by the website PhD2Published. The public accountability is in the form of a spreadsheet, here. And the social support comes in the form of a very active Twitter hashtag (#AcWriMo), and a Facebook group. Lots of participants (there are over 600 the last time I checked the spreadsheet) also have their own blogs and are writing posts like this one.

I’ve made academic writing a focus in the past twelve months. I’ve tried a number of different tools and techniques to help me establish a daily writing habit and produce results:

Academic Writing Club


Meeting With Your Writing

Email Support from Jo Van Every

Mac Freedom

Rescue Time


Alinof Timer (timer for desktop)

iTomato (timer for iPhone)

750 Words

All of these have helped, some more than others (I’ll be more specific if anyone asks), and writing regularly has become a fairly well established habit.

I’ve learned that while the internet is a distraction (see the three examples of blocking software above), it’s really not the main problem. The truth is that the internet does not normally distract me from my work. It doesn’t distract me from teaching, from university service, or from my work as a clinical ethicist.  I realized I have negative feelings not only about myself as an academic writer, but about the value of academic writing itself. Putting them together is a recipe for staring at a blank screen until the urge to check Twitter takes over.

Three things have proved most helpful:

1. Learning to start a writing session by “meditating” to get those negative feelings off my mental radar (Jo Van Every taught me this).

2. The Pomodoro Technique: essentially writing in 25 minute bursts, with a five minute break. I tell myself: “I can do anything for 25 minutes.” Often, after the first one, I don’t even need the timer any more.

3. Social writing. I really like knowing someone is writing along with me. This is partially about accountability, but more about reassurance. When I am alone with my writing, negative feelings can take over. Having another person, even a stranger, writing at the same time somehow makes it seem alright. Right now, I use Jo Van Every’s Meeting With Your Writing on Mondays (conference call followed by 90 mins of writing, then a follow up conference call), and Twitter the rest of the time. #Acwrimo is the best bet for this right now. A NaNo Twitter feed, NaNoWordSprints  is also great.

My AcWriMo goals:

I’m going to do 20 Poms a week, hopefully four a day each weekday. At the end of November, I’ll submit one article to a journal, and have a draft of a second article.

The article I’m submitting is on medical romance. Right now organized medicine is in a period of contestation over what “professionalism” means, how to measure it, and how to teach it. I’m looking closely at a set of sixteen Harlequin medicals in a series for the version of medical professionalism it seems to represent. I’m planning to give a presentation on this in April at the PCA meeting in Chicago, not in the popular romance area, but in the medical humanities area, if they’ll have me. That said, I am so looking forward to the Susan Elizabeth Phillips talk and the Janice Radway event at PCA that the romance folks are putting on.

The second article will either be (a) one I started a year ago on organ donation but haven’t finished (it’s based on an ethics consultation that, believe it or not, has been unfolding for over two years), or (b) a piece on an ethics consultation I had earlier this year in which the patient refused to speak to physicians, but had a great relationship with nurses, or (c) a pedagogy reflection on the mock ethics consultations my students do in my undergrad bioethics course. The first project is the one I have done by far the most work on, but the second is the “easiest”, and the third would be written for a specific call for papers, and so might be the “easiest” to publish. We’ll see.

Since I’m on sabbatical I’m already more or less meeting my daily AcWriMo goals, but it’s fun to take part anyway. I’m off to add a couple of stars to that wall calendar in the pic.

6 responses

  1. My thought exactly. Tabitha in Moonlight might be just the wheeze. (it has a dr and a nurse in it, but it’s the title that keeps intriguing me.)


  2. I wondered if AcWriMo was still going. Glad to hear people are making it work for them. I wrote about it a couple of years ago at my VM blog and was skeptical about the words per day approach for academics, but your take on it sounds like a good one.

    Thanks to you I used 750 words for quite a while. What I’m working on now doesn’t really lend itself to that technique, but between academic writing, reviewing, teaching, and (formerly) blogging I got myself back into the daily writing habit (more or less). The one thing that isn’t on your list that I really find helpful is full screen writing software like WriteRoom and OmmWriter. One of those and a pair of good headphones can really help me focus.

    Good luck!

    @Des Livres: Tabitha in Moonlight is one of my favorite Neels books. If you haven’t read her, it’s a great introduction to Neels.


  3. @MissBatesRead and @DesLivres: I’m only looking at contemporary medicals, because I’m analyzing them as a kind of representation of contemporary medicine. One thing I’ve learned about studying the romance genre is that it’s important to really focus on specific texts, and to have a good rationale for that focus. I haven’t come across scholarship on Neels so far in my research but I hope someone is doing it, as she was such an important author for the genre.

    @Sunita: They changed it from AcBoWriMo (book-related) to just plain AcWriMo. I have no idea how academics measure their work by words. This past week my work consisted of moving paragraphs around and deleting some, and I considered that good progress. That said, if I *only* looked at time, I might not keep my eye on the prize, so having the end of the month goals provides the forest for the trees.

    I’m glad 750 worked for you, because I’ve never been able to use it. I can’t free write more than a paragraph. Thanks also for the suggestion for full screen software. I think I may have that option within Scrivener (another product adopted this year). I will check it out.

    oh, and I’m reading Tabitha in Moonlight. It’s $3.86 at Amazon for Kindle.


    • Yes, Scrivener has that option. It’s a good way to try out the general idea. The Scrivener one doesn’t work as well for me, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because psychologically I know that all the other stuff is back there behind the screen in the same program. Or it might just be the way the page is set up.

      WriteRoom’s default is (or at least used to be) the very retro black screen/green type/blinking cursor, which made it feel like it was the only thing the computer could do while you were in it. OmmWriter has this zen motif, complete with mood music, and you can have typewriter sounds as an option. Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels incredibly hokey. 😉


    • Yes, I see your point about contemporary … Neels and her drs. & nurses (and the fact that they’re always male and female, respectively) are dated. Just loved the two Neelses I read. I hope you enjoy Tabitha; it’s in the TBR.



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