Making the Time to Write


As academics, we are so tied to the work rhythms of semesters, quarters, trimesters, intersessions, modules, and summer sessions as measures of time tied to particular tasks. As summer wanes and most of us start using terms like "gearing up,” and “prepping,” we often assume our time will now be absorbed with teaching and our research and writing time are lost.  

Change the time frame.

I’d like to suggest that it actually is not/does not need to be lost; if we changed our frame about when writing happens, we can find time to work on research and writing in a regular, rhythmic way. For example: it is a myth that summer is like a sparkly lawn stretched out before the academic writer. What seems a luxury of time is often not satisfying in its offering. Did you accomplish all you had imagined? And then the long semester seems to be endlessly taking us away from our writing. 

These thoughts are embedded in our thinking and affect our attitude toward “writing time.”

How to change the frame?

We can toss out the ways we always link writing with “time to write” and begin to focus on developing a writing rhythm. First we need to shed our fetishizing of time. Stop glorifying the state of being too busy to write. Allow many different rhythms to run through your day, your week, your semester. Let go of productivity markers.

The best way to fit writing into your routine is to fit writing into your routine.

Make it part of the routine. I suggest trying to find potential in the briefest of time spans just to keep your head in your work. Talk into your phone, make notes in your device, carry around something you need to read, tell your 3 year-old about the abstract you are working on while driving to daycare. Immersion in your work need not take the form of a weekend binge.  

Try different times of day, different locations, and different rhythms to see that sometimes any old time can work. Speed up some activities. Slow down others.

I am attracted to speed golf because it forces me to change my pace and rhythm enough that I don’t over think my shots - no time!  I like that the focus is shifted to doing a little more with less - less time, fewer clubs. The analogy here is that even something you like to do can afford to change things up sometimes.

From the links below, you can read a little bit about how time impacts our work, our cognition, our heath.  And then, you should turn back to your work ;-)


Slow Scholarship Movement

Forced Productivity

Scribble, Scribble, Toil and Trouble: Forced Productivity in the Modern University William W. Savage

The Tyranny of Metrics

Attention to Faculty Writing is Growing

Alice Daer