Thursday, January 16, 2014

post phd writing

I committed to writing 3 articles in 3 months, with my phd university having advertised writing scholarships. I hadn't taken this up imeediately on handing in the phd because at that stage of not knowing if it had passed, my voice was was my energy and creativity, but 6 months after gearing I had passed was perfect for me and fortunately my phd uni was re-advertising these.
My own workplace uni i then had to negotiate this time with. My inline manager was very supportive figuring it was a win for them also, so all my teaching time (just about) was bought out. Juggling my other roles continued.

I achieved 3 articles and a conference paper done in 3 months 3 weeks. Thanks hugely to my phd supervisor, and particularly also to my friendship with Anne a colleague that shared the phd student and post-doc writing journey.
It still involved late night writing, my time management never seems to stay within 'normal working hrs'.
And now they are coming back to bite me post the scholarship time with changes/amendments.
Still it was an excellent opportunity, I cant imagine being so productive without the impetus of the scholarship committment having driven me.
Success at this was also made possible by undertaking 4 writing retreats across this time, one with two friends from my phd at a distance student days with fellow phd journeyers Anne and Heather at a hired bach in Waikenae on the Kapiti coast north of Wellington.

This was just before starting the post doc scholarship so i used it to read Heather's copy of Thomson and Kamlers book on writing for peer review journals. There is now an ebook version, but at the time i was waiting 3 weeks for my own copy so had photographed pages from the copy borrowed :)
This was followed by a work-place organized writing retreat of 5 days at Waiwera,30 mins north of Auckland,not quite so good- workplace conversations intrude. At this one ai slavishly attempted an article in the 5 days, done but dull and deservedly got the feedback from my phd supervisor that I had vanished in it, my own voice gone..rewrote it over the following 10 days.
I then did one a month later with Anne at her family's bach at Waimarama, about 3/4 of an hour south of Napier. Particularly challenging, and surprizingly advantagious to have no internet, sms could be achieved halfway along the beach if desperate
but also working within the constraints of charged computer time with a dodgy generator made for extreme bursts of concentrated writing alongside enforced thinking time.
Then at the beginning of the third month I did a further writing retreat with the Tauhara academic women's writing retreat. Well structured with small group work for 4/4 an hour each night that could edit or do a sustained conversation on one's 'work in progress' plus optional hr sessions on things like first sentences, last sentences, pomodoros,, and at which myself another colleague also introduced Thompson and Kamler's tinytext method of abstract through to article writing. Excellent role models/resources to call on, and lunch and dinners catered. Well balanced time between writing, getting feedback, creative writing, and fun.

The timing for this was good: end of academic year so minimal teaching load to escape from, and summer 'holidays' when amendments can be considered in an unrushed way.
Some time with a colleague online via skype for pomodoros and also at a uni library with another colleague in the week before Christmas got things done.
Other useful learnings along the way; formulaic writing does not work for me (or perhaps for anyone?). The book by Thomson and Kamler writing for peer review journals was useful, providing the confidence of a tinytext where i could check what i was doing was meeting the 'needs of editors' but it was an error on my part to skip past the section on voice. Rewriting with voice greatly improved the writing i was doing.
However there is no silver bullet, no paint by numbers solution and writing a journal article in 7 days defied my best intentions. Writing 3 in 4 weeks was more doable. This one was one of the resources i accessed on the women's writing retreat, I know Ive looked at this one before but didnt consciously use it this time around, Writing your journal article in 12 weeks
Mapping out potential articles in advance and revisiting it during the writing was also useful so i would not be repeating myself in different venues and so i could sustain the momentum. Choosing journals was something i became more comfortable with as my 'voice' altered and as i became more conscious of the spaces those articles i liked were coming from.
And Marianne at the Tauhara retreat was beautifully grounding in pointing out the cinderella ness of trying to put a thesis into a journal article and how hard if not impossible a task this was. Loved the empathy.
The other success to be gained from the scholarship was in confidence gained.
The feedback gained so far extends this, there is nothing as sweet as getting real feedback saying things like:
"We really like this paper and its bold, playful style. A couple of points for addressing..."