It’s almost November 1st and the start of AcWriMo will soon be upon us. That’s “Academic Writing Month”—a time when some academics volunteer to write every day, in order to advance their research projects.
I started AcWriMo at my former institution when our newest (at the time) iteration of a teaching and learning center began in 2014. For four years, 25-30 faculty pledged—mostly to ourselves—to make progress on a writing project during the 30 days. There was (supposed to be) a requirement (that most ignored) to post daily or at least weekly progress to a shared accountability spreadsheet. No matter—most of us kept writing, even if it was not every single day of the month.
AcWriMo was the only time of year I’d write every day. (Here are a few where I discuss my journey as a writer: here and here.) Partly it was the pressure I felt as the titular leader and partly it was because by November, I would be ready to make the winter break productive and daily writing helped set me up for December success. One of the things I liked about our campus’ AcWriMo was that I could always stop by our teaching and learning center and find another AcWriMo-er there, writing. Even though we wouldn’t talk, the friendly glance as I settled in to write was comforting. It helped, knowing someone else was there, writing or struggling to write. There was an energy in the camaraderie that provided the focus needed for my moment of success.
But since retiring, that feeling of community writing together has dimmed. Even when I still lived in the same town, I didn’t have access to the center and my favorite chair in the corner of the living room. So writing occurred in my home office—where I also paid the bills, worked for my editing clients, and browsed the Internet. Every Saturday, I would go early to Starbucks, where I met my best friend for coffee and conversation and I would get about 30 minutes of productive writing in there.
A friend who has moved on to another school has created an informal AcWriMo, done over the Internet and other than her, I usually don’t know anyone else personally in the group, so it is harder to experience that camaraderie I was used to having. Now, in our new mountain-top home, my companions are the leaves turning gorgeous colors outside my window; they fall down silently, floating on the wind.
So here it is, the end of October and I am ready for AcWriMo. I have two writing goals—the first is to continue to write this weekly pedagogical blog and the second, to begin a book on the decline of civility in the US. The “skeleton” of the book will be comparing George Washington’s 101 rules for civility and tweets from President Trump. I want to outline the entire book and write at least two chapters by the end of AcWriMo. I’m aiming for first drafts, with lots of room for improvement.
But that means—after being out of my writing rhythm while we packed, moved to a different state, and lived in a temporary cabin while the house was being finished—exploring what writing rituals will work for me now, when I just look up and spend lots of time leaf-watching. So I am going into my toolkit—TimeDoser, 25 minutes of writing and a 5 minute break, repeated twice for one hour, each day. For the first week, I just want to “brain dump” all the thoughts I have about the book. The next few weeks will be beginning to write the first few chapters of the book.
Writing feels like more of a solitary activity again—even though in a way, it always was. I have to find the internal desire to write, because the act of writing is always solitary, at least for me. While I write with a typical reader in mind, a notebook or blank document in hand, a cup of hot tea, and my wealth of resources, ultimately the journey that is writing is one taken alone, until there are enough words to share.
I’ve found the journey to be worth taking—books, articles, chapters, even blog posts. I hope that you will take your own AcWriMo journey for the next 30 days. Write—because you have something others need to hear. Write, even it all you can commit to is 15 minutes a day. Know that others are out here, writing alone but together in spirit. Share how it’s going in the comments.
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