Academic Writing Month at DU

Academic Writing Month, or AcWriMo, officially launched this November. With ten days left before the transcription festivities come to a close I wanted to share how one DU professor is making the most of this challenge. Dr. Hoffman, an astrophysics professor in the Natural Sciences & Mathematics department, has been busy all month crafting grant proposals, reports, emails, and journal entries for this event. Before I share more on how Dr. Hoffman is participating, here’s a little background on what this engaging digital writ-a-thon is all about:

What is AcWriMo?

pablo (1)Academic Writing Month is an online writ-a-thon specifically geared toward academic writers (PhD2Published). It stemmed from national novel writing month and is hosted by PhD2Published, an online resource for academic publishing. The focus of AcWriMo is socially encouraging scholars to “monotask.” The purpose of AcWriMo is to challenge scholars to write every day for a whole month in order to cultivate productive writing habits and complete those looming writing tasks that don’t always take first priority. How many times have you procrastinated because you’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of mental power required to formulate your ideas? That’s the whole idea behind AcWriMo; to get your digits transcribing (whether you feel inspired or not)! It brings to mind the keen words of author Neil Gaiman:

“If you only write when you’re inspired you may be a fairly decent poet, but you’ll never be a novelist because you’re going to have to make your word count today and those words aren’t going to wait for you whether you’re inspired or not. You have to write when you’re not inspired. And you have to write the scenes that don’t inspire you. And the weird thing is that six months later, a year later, you’ll look back at them and you can’t remember which scenes you wrote when you were inspired and which scenes you just wrote because they had to be written next. The process of writing can be magical. …Mostly it’s a process of putting one word after another.” (Gaiman, n.d.)

In addition to dedicating time everyday to indite your next masterpiece, AcWriMo puts emphasis on the social. Social media and physical social encounters dominate this writing initiative. Twitter is probably the most popular platform, with the hashtag #AcWriMo appearing among the text of many academics’ tweets. Additionally, in person writing workshops have been springing up both on and off college campuses. Dr. Clair Aitchison reports that events such as writing boot camps and the “shut up and write” campaign have been created to support doctoral students and academics in their writing endeavors. At many of these events individuals gather together to sit silently and write. Shut up and Write specifically focuses on congregating individuals to write at a specific time and place every day, providing a silent social experience that fosters productivity and encouragement.

DU’s Dr. Hoffman

Astrophysics professor Dr. Jennifer Hoffman has been participating in AcWriMo, and recently graciously provided me with a little insight into her process about how she has been leveraging this challenge. She shared with me that she’s currently been using this 30 day span to catch up on writing tasks that often get pushed to the back burner, with one of her main goals being the completion a grant proposal on her fascinating research surrounding supernovae.

To tackle her proposal task she has been using the tool 750 Words to write…you guessed it…750 words every day. What she likes about it is the fact that she can not only use it to write, but also track and analyze her progress using the built in calendar and analytics features. She discussed that she uses the technique of writing in short bursts to compose parts of her proposal as well as just to get ideas on paper or to journal. Alternatively she shared that PhD students or those required to write extensive swaths of text at a time might want to use it to compose smaller sections of a larger written work. Before I left she imparted a tidbit of academic wisdom with me: “try to get away from perfectionism; it’s much easier to go back and edit than it is to produce.” So, as you’re taking on a large writing project, whether it’s during AcWriMo or not, focus on getting your ideas on paper first, no one is going to see your first draft anyway.

While the purpose of this month is to keep you accountable, you don’t have to stop on November 30th. I encourage you to start your own “shut up and write” group this winter break to catch up on some writing tasks/thesis chapters that you may have ignored during your busy fall quarter. If you have any writing techniques and/or tips you’d like to share please share them in the comments!

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