Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Summer Writing

I finished grading undergraduate papers at 6.45am yesterday and although I still have several projects on my desk, I begin now to look forward to that happy time in the academic's life, the summer writing season. It is similar in length for the British academic and for the American academic but it begins and ends at different times, May to August in the US, June to September in the UK. Usually speaking, I begin the summer full of optimism about how much I am going to write. I then get about half of that done, with all those other projects on my desk crowding it out, reading and editing manuscripts, writing shorter articles for multi-author works, reviewing books, and continuing to excavate the email mountain, to say nothing of housework, family and, I hope, relaxation and travel. This summer I am determined to get more of the top grade kind of writing done (book and articles), spending less time on the "jobbing" kind of writing. The latter is necessary but the former is where one gets the most satisfaction and intellectual stimulation. For this process, lots of discipline is required and I have decided to make a few rules for myself:

(1) Email correspondence will be limited to early mornings and evenings. The day is for writing. In line with this, I have switched off my automatic alerts so that I cannot be distracted by the arrival of interesting (or threatening) looking emails that drag me in.

(2) Pidgin will be switched off all day. The day is for writing.

(3) My best writing time is the morning; I will therefore focus specially on the nitty gritty of writing in the mornings.

(4) I will resist chasing references and following hunches during the day. The day is for writing.

(5) I will only blog during the day if it is directly related to the topic of the book or articles I am writing. Broader blogging is for early morning or evenings.

(6) The New Testament Gateway requires some serious work, but cannot be a priority at this stage. The day is for writing. If I can get back to the New Testament Gateway in due course, that will be fantastic. If I cannot, I am going to have to be selfish and prioritize writing.

These are a few rules I am setting myself. I am also making myself accountable to my blog. The book I am working on at the moment is provisionally entitled Thomas and the Gospels and is about the relationship of the Gospel of Thomas to the Synoptics. My hope is to break the back of this this summer, ideally also finishing a couple of articles I am working on. I'll check in again in August to see what the progress is like.


John Lyons said...

Mark, I have a Faculty Exam Board and a Faculty Progress Committee meeting in early July. What the hell happened to June!

Sean Winter said...

Mark, I'm glad to see that others feel the need to be pretty harsh on other things to get the important stuff done - 'the day is for writing': should be my mantra over the next few months as well. Like you I have found mornings to be most productive, so, the plan is for a 5.30 get up and 2 hours concentration before the kids get up. A couple of questions for you:
1. Where do you write? In your office? at home? library? The first two are always full of distraction for me.
2. How many words would you manage in a good week - one in which you have kept the day for writing?
Sean (sat in St Deiniol's Library and commenting on blog posts at 9.40 a.m - DAMN!)

Mark Goodacre said...

Hi John. OK, perhaps not June to September, but July to September is still a glorious three months, right?

Sean: I only write at home; very rarely in the office. I find that much easier, but especially when the kids are not around! I aim for a minimum of 1,000 words a day when I am in this kind of writing phase, and I am pleased if I do 2,000.