When I say “You can write during term time”, I don’t mean you can write for an hour or more a day. A privileged few have the teaching and service load that makes that possible. Most people would find that a challenge. Similarly blocking off a whole day every week for research/writing is challenging for most people.
But not writing at all is not really an option either. Your writing is important to you and to your employer. So how do you make writing a priority even when it doesn’t get very much of your time?
The Write-Every-Day model
Almost everyone, no matter how heavy your teaching load, can find 15 minutes a day. The problem with 15 minutes is that most people think it isn’t worth it so they don’t bother. That means they don’t write for days, then when they do have an hour or more, they get frustrated at how hard it is to get back into their writing project.
Research by Robert Boice has shown that 15 minutes a day can be effective. My clients have found that to be true but find only doing 15 minutes a day isn’t very satisfying. Combining 15 minutes a day with one longer session per week solves that problem.
You get one session a week where you can go deeper into your writing. And the short sessions in between keep the momentum going between sessions.
However, if all you can find is 15 minutes a day, try it anyway. Call it an experiment. Stick with it for at least 6 weeks and then assess how much you get done.
The Writing Retreat model
If you don’t find daily writing, even if you had 1 or 2 hours a day, works for you, you might consider short writing retreats. You might even rope in the occasional weekend or part-weekend for writing. (But not every weekend. You need rest, too.)
The idea here is to take advantage of the irregular but predictable rushes in other parts of your work and schedule more time for writing when those aren’t happening. You can also use time during mid-semester reading weeks to give your writing some concentrated focus.
This also combines well with the 15 minutes per day strategy. The daily practice keeps you connected to your projects. The mini-retreat enables you to get into your writing more deeply. This post on turning Summer writing plans into Autumn writing plans will also be useful as an ending ritual for your mini-retreat.
Be reasonable. You aren’t going to get a day every week, much less 2. But you might be able to get two 2-day mini-retreats in per term. The trick is to schedule them first before you schedule meetings and other irregular but predictable obligations.
Making reasonable and feasible plans
There are planning classes for semesters and breaks in the Academic Writing Studio. I guide you through the process of identifying your priorities and scheduling time. A foundations membership gives you access to the class recordings and PDFs, and an online community. A full membership also includes A Meeting With Your Writing which helps you schedule writing time and keep that commitment.
This post was originally published on Aug 11, 2014. It has been edited, most recently on September 29, 2016.