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Staying in touch with your writing: Opening the document on a regular basis

My oldest brother is a tenured, full professor at California State University Los Angeles, in Los Angeles, California (USA). As a result, we frequently talk about the challenges and joys of our lives as professors. This past week, we were chatting about all the stuff we need to submit for publication, and how difficult it is to get stuff out when you’ve been out of touch with your research for a while, particularly with a specific piece of research. I told my brother about Joli Jensen’s “Write No Matter What” and how I, personally, implement Jensen’s approach to “writing, no matter what”.

What I think becomes super stressful right now, and difficult, is to stay in touh with our writing. Normally, we’re always under stress. But with the current global pandemic of COVID-19, it is even harder as we implement “shelter-at-home” practices and (particularly those who do care work and have children) deal with the home components of working from home all the damn time.

AcWri setup

I told my brother that one way in which I, personally, have stayed in touch with my writing, is SIMPLY OPENING THE DOCUMENT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING ON. This sounds ridiculously easy enough and yet, I know from MY own experience that more often than not, we forget to open the document we must be working on, thinking “I will open it when I have the time”. Well, the reality has set in: we’re never really going to have the time, per se.

Workflow: Finishing a paper

We’re living in unprecedented times, and one chill, no-pressure way in which we can stay in touch with our writing, even if for only 5 to 15 minutes, is to open the document. Reading what we’ve written, checking what we could write, maybe spend those 15 minutes writing even if it’s only one sentence, this process keeps us in touch with our writing and our research. Even if we’re just at the data analysis stage, opening up Stata, or R, or looking at the dataset in Excel, or the qualitative data corpus in N*Vivo or MAXQDA, or the map in ArcGIS or QGIS, we can still stay in touch with our research.

Simply by opening the damn document.

I know for a fact, this is hard to do for me, more often than not. But over the past few weeks, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Instead of stressing out over what I have not finished, I simply try to stay in touch with my writing by opening the document on a regular (usually daily) basis.

Important to remember: we are living under a lot of stress. The purpose of this strategy is to relieve us from additional pressure. I think we’re going to have to find ways to write, but these need to be tamed and mediated by how much stuff we need to do at home, ON TOP OF OUR SCHOLARLY COMMITMENTS. As I told my brother: it’s not “write 1,000 words per day”. It’s not “finish this paper this weekend”. It’s “let’s open the document, check where we are, and how we can move it forward slowly, no pressure, no stress”.

I have always promoted a chill, no-stress approach to writing (see my post on how we can develop a writing practice by focusing for 15 minutes, writing 125-250 words). I think this strategy is going to have to be the way forward within these circumstances of extreme uncertainty.

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Posted in academia, writing.

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3 Responses

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  1. Susara says

    Thank you very much!! your posts and tweets are so wonderful, thank youvery much for sharing your writing methods with the world. It will be very helpful for my students and myself.

  2. Raul Pacheco-Vega says

    So glad you find my methods helpful! 🙂

  3. Nour says

    This is really helpful! It comes to me on the right time



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