Every Day Doesn't Mean Every Day

March 18, 2016 / By: Dr. Susan Callaway, Associate Professor of English / Director of the Center for Writing

Dr. Susan CallawayNothing causes an uproar in the Faculty Writing Retreats like the idea we should be writing for 30 minutes every day. During a week when we’ve been working 9am – 4pm focused on projects, we invariably bemoan how hard it is to fit writing into our lives. Those who are pre-tenure or ABD have the most at stake and push us hard for strategies that work. But 30 minutes a day seems laughable.

But here’s why you should:

  • “Every day” doesn’t mean every day. The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD) recommends 5 days a week leaving weekends free for your life. Three or four times a week will still be more than mere hoping.
  • “30 minutes” can mean 15. Some days you’ll happily exceed this number.
  • You’ll actually make progress.
  • You’ll think about your project during the day, deepening your ideas.
  • You’ll create a strong forward trajectory for your work.
  • You don’t have to write—anything you do to move your project forward counts: reading, analyzing data, looking up submission guidelines.
  • You’ll gain perspective on your teaching and service—the things that demand your attention because people are counting on you. Your scholarly work will have a fighting chance.
  • You’ll be immersed in your scholarly life and remember why you got into this field in the first place.
  • You’ll shed the guilt and replace it with calm and satisfaction.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Leave your material by the computer you write at the most. You shouldn’t waste time looking for files, tempted to check email.
  • Leave your document open.
  • Save it every day so you won’t lose it or worry about it.
  • Set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes. The time goes fast and focuses you.
  • Be flexible and good to yourself. One day missed? Get over it and move on.
  • Tame your email. Make it a rule to not check your email—what a time suck—until you’ve written. Some only check email an hour each day.
  • Join the NCFDD (UST has a free membership) to be inspired.
  • Schedule the time. This is perhaps the hardest part: find a time when you will really write.

You may work well with “bingeing”—spending hours at a time on a project to get it going or out the door. Or you may only be able to manage to write once a week for a couple of hours. Or you may need more accountability by writing every week with a partner. The idea is to see there are options to try. Find what works best for you.