What AcBoWriMo 2011 (Academic Book Writing Month) has taught me….



    @melovell: Congratulations #AcBoWriMo folk. We made it! It’s been a pleasure to work with you all.

    @vikturbine: @PhD2Published although a lot of things got in the way of meeting my target, still found AcBoWriMo really motivating & source of great tips

    @vikturbine: #AcBoWriMo doesn’t end here! There’ll be plenty more on http://t.co/FwB9pdFL & pls use #AcWri for further academic writing chat!

    @phd2published: Here we go, it’s the final count down: http://t.co/7eZiA8B4 ! #AcBoWriMo

    @writerswriting: Can this count as my #acbowrimo after pic @elemvee? Watching the Simpsons: Lisa Pounds out 2000 Words on @hulu: http://t.co/C0zRYITq

    @phd2published: Finding the will to write and how to avoid key obstacles. Advice by Luc Reid http://t.co/q2KXp4Cv#acbowrimo

    @charlottefrost: Wanted 2 tweet personal thx 2 every1 who put faith & time in2 #AcBoWriMo but it’d B 2 many tweets & I’m more grateful than a tweet cld say!!

So the challenge was posted, tweeted, discussed, shared, accepted and planned for.

A group of academics across the world set out in November 2011 to write a negotiated word limited of up to 50,000 words (give or take according to what you decided your focus, capabilities and commitment could be) for a book or set of academic papers. A commitment was being made to a task that is a part of our roles as academics. Writing. It can be tedious and a challenge in itself to find the time, dedicate focus, and complete in a reasonable time. So in committing to prioritize writing for the month of a November a learning curve was set, and a steep one at that.

So what have we learnt? Here are 11 insights:

1. Encouragement

Surrounding yourself with like minded people is a very powerful source of inspiration. The Twitter community for this challenge was a strength of support, inspiration and ideas to get going, keep going, and move past blockers and procrastination (as you can read in the opening Twitter dialogue).

@CharlotteFrost initiated the challenge and followed through in style, dedication and led the pom pom shaking of chants for motivation. The community of practice that shared highs, lows, passions, writers block, strategies for moving forward, and observations about others was instrumental for many of us to meet daily word counts. All contributing to co-sharing belief, inspiration and affirmations about the ‘why’ of this writing challenge and why we acknowledged it in the first place.

2. Look ahead:

Planning is your best friend. A well planned goal, and subsequent steps are often undervalued but when paired with specific deadlines there is nothing like surprising yourself in actually be able to meet such tight word limit timelines.

3. Accountability:

A public pledge to carry out such a task means that celebrations were had but also a personal responsibility to meet the goal….and many who checked up on you.

4. Connect:

As Rochelle Melander (via @charlottefrost) says ‘We write more when we connect with others who are writing productively’. What I learnt throughout the AcBoWriMo challenge was the generation of a PLN (personal learning network) with a plethora of active and productive writers. So much so that many participants wanted to maintain this network so that they could have a AcBoWriMo life beyond the one month focus. These connections are further igniting the writing with @AcBoWriMo having now been created with the profile to support a dedicated month of academic writing productivity (based on NaNoWrMo model) organised by Charlotte Frost/PhD2Published in association with C21 @ UWM

5. Buddies:

Joining with like minded people, whom understand the pressure of being an academic to write, plus know the pitfalls of expectations and personal challenges in writing are not too far away for support is a must for such a writing challenge.

6. Time:

Strategies for dedicating time to writing were numerous and varied – in a cafe, morning, evening, in the garden, with pomodoro, shut up and write sessions, writing circles with colleagues, coffee as a reward, short bursts, goal set of 500 words before morning tea, blog and then transform the text, audio record ideas then transcribe, blah write (just get it down now and edit later), and so on.

7. Goals:

Set your goal, not someone else’s, and go for it. Seems obvious but often the writing block and stumbles come from not writing what we are ready to write, what feels right and what is actually aligned with the research/publishing goals.

8. Rewards:

Everyone needs a little extra motivation!

9. Exercise:

The direct opposite to writing – movement, not sitting, heart beat raised, and blood flowing – fabulous for the mind, great for the posture, and amazing how your ideas just flow when you do sit back down to write. Exercise is also nice parallel and supportive approach that’s good for the mind, body and soul.

10. Break:

It’s okay to have a day that doesn’t go to plan with your writing goal – illness or unexpected work commitments emerge that chip into the writing time but this is okay. This actually drives me to refocus the next day to write, and allow flow to reconnect with ideas. Enjoyed still being in the space of my writing focus which meant the very next time I could write was motivated, focused and productive.

11. Aims:

Set your goals high, and you will most likely surprise yourself and go beyond what you set out to achieve.

With a successful challenge met in November 2011, the year of smarter writing for 2012 looks like AcBoWriMo could be even bigger. Are you going to participate? What goals are you going to set? Who will be your buddies for ideas, motivation and celebration of word counts met?