It’s hard to believe but #AcWriMo is over again for another year! For those not in the know #AcWriMo is a writing initiative run by Dr Charlotte Frost and myself on PhD2Published. The ‘relatively relaxed’ rules are explained here (in case you like the idea so much you want to do your own writing month or want to mentally prepare for next year!) but essentially the initiative charges academics to really think about their writing, and writing productivity and to make use of the, frankly huge, supportive online network of academic writers. What was amazing this year, only the second time we have run this, was the number of people who joined us, both on Twitter, on Facebook and on PhD2Published itself and who shared their goals and targets, their wins and failures. During the month of November I joined others in setting goals. I also wrote about #AcWriMo for the Guardian Higher Education blog and set out my own plans for the month here.
I have to admit, I wasn’t very successful this year in terms of the goals I initially set. My two pieces of collaborative writing were set back for various reasons, both because of the difficulties of working with others not doing the initiative, and other work commitments. My plan for writing a paper for Sociology was also set back for various reasons. By all accounts this may seem like a failure but I am generally a positive person and I have really thought through the reasons why I think I still benefitted from taking part.
I actually got a lot of other writing projects underway and even completed some others. I did write and complete my funding bid as planned which is a great achievement! I also wrote a presentation paper that I gave at Durham University on the 21st December about embodiment and intergenerationality, another for the Children and Families Research Group at the Open University and another for the Society for Research in Higher Education which is taking place in December and is all about my experience with PhD2Published and the way in which social media and online spaces are altering contemporary academic knowledge production. I see the paper for Durham as the groundwork for a journal article that I might not have written had it not been for being invited to do the talk itself and for the need to get words down. As well as completing these projects, I made a plan for a paper I want to write about grandparents and their attempts to become kinship carers for their grandchildren which I am writing off the back of collaborative research I conducted for the Open University. To me, these altered achievements represent success with my writing that may have deviated from my initial plans but have moved me forward nonetheless.
For me the benefit of #AcWriMo has been that I have learnt that my plans and expectations are not always realistic and that I need to be flexible about what I plan to write and what I can achieve. While my best laid plans did gang aft agley, the time I spent on making sure I did do some writing meant I was more productive and more focused than I sometimes can be. I have now also spent the time thinking about what I have achieved and appreciated this rather than being negative because my initial goals weren’t met. It is undoubtedly difficult to set achievable goals and to write every day. The days when I attended all day workshops and weekends in particular made it difficult to sit down and write, especially when these days are either about family or networking until late into the evening. Nonetheless you can make up for these days in other ways; by spending more time the next day for example, or being fair to yourself about what is achievable and viewing work achievements in a balanced way.
This year #AcWriMo has been about emphasising quality over quantity and while my quantity for each project may not have been quite what I expected, I have learnt to think differently and more positively about my achievements and get good words down that are now the foundation of further output.