Too much, or too little?
Structure is a constant struggle for me.
With no structure, I drift without focus and don’t accomplish much of anything. Too much structure and I resist. I spend more time fighting the structure than doing the thing I need to do.
The trick is to find just enough structure to enable me to get stuff done without chafing.
There’s more on this tension between pressure & ease in a story I was inspired by in a farming magazine, involving cattle herding. I promise it is relevant to academia.
The transition into summer can be tough.
During a teaching term, you have a certain amount of structure: classes, meetings, office hours … That structure can be frustrating, especially if it feels out of your control or misaligned with your own values and priorities, but it gives a certain shape to your days and weeks.
In contrast to the frustrating elements, the lack of structure during the summer feels inviting. Long days when you can dive into projects. Months in which you can prioritize the work that is most important to you.
And yet, no structure at all can actually limit your productivity. Boundaries provide focus and intensity. The trick is to find just enough structure to give you focus without feeling boxed in.
This is why you need a writing practice.
A structure for your writing.
This is also the principle behind A Meeting With Your Writing, the core of the Academic Writing Studio.
- You make an appointment to write at a set time.
- You are part of a group (though you write alone for 90-minutes).
- The weekly meetings give some shape to your week.
- If you’ve been away on vacation, it provides a structure to transition back into your work.
In addition, I provide a structure within the meeting: a short exercise to decide what to work on and get you going, and a short reflection at the end to tie things up and give you the seeds to get back into it later. This means you can turn up unprepared. I provide a recording of the beginning and ending practices for you to use at other times if you find them helpful, bringing boundaries to other sessions.
During term time, A Meeting With Your Writing helps you carve out time for writing and protect it in a busy, scheduled week. During the summer, A Meeting With Your Writing provides just enough structure to keep you working effectively.
If you’d like to read more from a long-time MWYW member, their story is available here.
A Meeting With Your Writing is a core part of the Academic Writing Studio. Synchronous meetings provide just enough structure, while Office Hours can fill in the gaps.
The Studio also has resources for planning effectively, available once you’re signed up as a member. There are 3 tiers of pricing to help accessibility for each different income level.
Previous versions of this post were published on January 2, 2013 and September 9, 2013. Edited April 5, 2016. Edited May 31, 2021. Edited, Re-published and back-dated September 21, 2021.