It’s the summer, and you want to write?! Aren’t you asking a bit much of yourself? The summer is almost the only time of the year when graduate students don’t need to write. It’s okay. I understand. Writing is a tendency that most graduate students have in common, and I know I have a couple manuscripts I want to make good progress on this summer, so what can we do to ensure we produce something? Well, there are a few things we can do, but the first thing we must do is establish a firm and solid footing on which we can build and produce writing. I know that each writer has their own process for production, so I’m going to tell you what I do to ensure I’m somewhat productive in my writing adventures over summer break.

Clean: If you’re anything like me, then your desk or work area probably looks like a disaster zone following the end of the semester. Usually throughout the semester, my work area goes from clean and orderly to a jungle of papers and open books where my cat enjoys hiding. So, the first thing I do is de-clutter. I clean everything off my desk, put my vast collection of books back where they’re supposed to be (Hello, Mr. Bookcase!), and go through the stacks of scattered papers (small slaughtered forest?). After I clear everything off, I clean and wipe down my work area with dusting spray to make sure it shines.

Organize: Now that I have my work area de-cluttered and clean again, I can think about what exactly I want to write over the summer. When it comes to writing, I sometimes suffer from ADD. I become overwhelmed by the thoughts of potential productivity, meaning I think I can do more in a set period of time than I actually can. I find that if my area is clean and organized with only the texts and artifacts I’m writing about on my desk, then I get a lot more done.

Write: Cleaning and organizing my work area is useless unless I actually write something. I’ve used many different techniques to focus my writing. (I won’t go into the various writing techniques here; that’s for a future post!) I normally need white noise in order to write. It relaxes my mind and helps me focus. If I don’t have the television on low, then I use a free online application for my white noise: SimplyNoise. I also find distraction-free writing tools useful; however, Office 2011 for Mac has a distraction-free selection, so I often don’t need to use online applications (e.g. Pen.io).

This is part of my summer writing process. I have excellent success and usually can accomplish a few writing projects over the summer if I stick with my above productivity steps. Everyone has there own writing process, steps, or techniques that get them through the summer (and semesters!), so it’s highly probably that what works for me will not work for everyone; however, I hope by sharing what gets me through my summer writing you can take something away that will help you with your summer writing.

Do you have any techniques or processes that help you get through your summer writing projects? Please share them with us in the comments!

Photo by Flickr user Klearchos Kapoutsis // Creative Commons licensed: CC-BY

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3 Responses to Summer Writing

  1. Andrea says:

    In my program, we take 9 credits in the summer and go part-time during Fall and Spring semesters. This means I am writing A LOT this summer. I am in denial about how many pages I’ve been asked to produce by August 1, but I need to be writing roughly 2000 words a day. This is VERY HARD.
    So, when I have writing time blocked out, this is what I do: start with 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, then 20 and so on with timed 2-5 minute breaks in between each session. I leave each session with a quick note about where to start next round, so no matter if I am starting in a few minutes or in a few hours, I have something to jump into. This is merely a psychological trick, but it makes me way less likely to procrastinate on the internet and more efficient. Breaks are when I have creative breakthroughs, usually. Anyway, so far so good. I have generally exceeded my writing goals doing this method :)

  2. EKSwitaj says:

    My most important technique is to set interim goals. At the start of the summer, I figured out what I needed to get done each work in order to meet my overall goals; now, each night before I go to bed, I set myself a writing “mission” for the next day: a certain number of pages that I need to revise or write (sometimes a combination of both).

    When I meet my goals, I give myself rewards like a day trip or dinner out and a movie.

  3. Amy says:

    Writing, for me, is so ritualistic, and preparing to write is no different. I also engage in “tidying behaviors” before I write! William James might characterize such behavior as the “conditions that encourage the new way”–slate-clearing practices that make the adoption of a new habit (or, in this case, an activity) easier.

    I blogged about James and writing habits–and writing about them last summer in my diss–on my blog here: http://theambulantscholar.com/2011/07/01/habit-williamjames/

    Now, I’m off to the library to write. I neither have the time nor inclination to clean off my desk at home… (Does anyone else escape to the library or coffee shop when the home office just gets too messy?)

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