Just Write

November 2, 2015 / By: Dr. Susan Callaway, Associate Professor of English and Director of the UST Center for Writing

Susan CallawayIt’s hard to write. Through the years I’ve observed my colleagues in the writing retreats here on campus, I know the challenges we all face when we sit down to our keyboards.

We simply don’t have time. We wish we could write throughout the year, but the retreats may be the only time we can immerse ourselves, get substantial amounts of writing done, and make real progress—even finish—a writing project.

We are immediately accountable to our students. Our partners, children, aging parents, and the joys that our lives away from campus bring us also pull on us with an urgency that trumps our finding time to write.

Finally, writing is inherently difficult. The quality of our minds, our ideas, our contributions are all laid bare right on the page. And we judge them. Our inner critic can hold us to a high level of performance but can also shut us down.  

If you’re having a hard time gaining traction on your work, consider these:

  • Set aside time to work and stick to it. Involve yourself in your project consistently—every day at the crack of whatever, or once a week, or binge at the retreats.
  • Write with others—in their presence. Make a date with a writing partner so that you actually write every week or every other week.
  • Be accountable. With a writing partner or small group, set goals every week and check in to report. You can do this in person or by email, with people in your department or from across campus or across the country.
  • Hide. Find a place away from your desk and colleagues. Just take your project with you so prepping, grading, or emails won’t tempt you.
  • Listen to your excuses and then ignore them. A disorganized work space or your hard old chair will do just fine. Lock that inner critic away in a vault.
  • Just write. Admit that inspiration and perfect writing will forever elude you. Instead, have your current document always at the ready on your computer desktop. Use a timer and set it for 30 minutes. That will spark your start and train your brain.
  • Leave a paper trail. Keep a log where you write down what you just accomplished so you know exactly where to pick up next time.

Get traction as a writer through the NCFDD Fall Writing Challenge or the January writing retreat. Both will give you the support and accountability you may need to get your writing on track.

Above all, experiment to find what works for you. And then do it.