26 months ago, a good friend told me about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a literary form of life-hacking. The hardest part of writing is getting the damn words on the damn page.* So aspiring novelists pick the month of November, set the audacious goal of 50,000 words, and then they just write the damn thing.** My friend had tried it the year before, and was planning to use November 2010 for edits. She asked if I’d like to join her.
At the time, I had a dissertation, a book proposal, and a long list of excuses for why I hadn’t gotten to work yet. I decided committing to November 2010 (2 months into my first job as an Assistant Professor) was a perfectly reasonable crazy thing to do, so I said yes.
I didn’t hit 50,000 words by the end of November. I have these awesome nieces that I only get to see on Thanksgiving. They’re way more adorable than a book manuscript. But my improvised academic version of NaNoWriMo yielded about 12,000 words of a book manuscript. November turned into December/January/February/March, yielding a legitimate first draft of The MoveOn Effect.
It appears other academics have also been clued in to NaNoWriMo. Charlotte Frost at PhD2Published.com launched AcBoWriMo (Academic Book Writing Month) last year. It sounds like a nice online community formed in the process. And since plenty of academic writing isn’t book-shaped, this year they’re calling it AcWriMo (Academic Writing Month) instead.
Sounds great, sign me up!
Here are my just-audacious enough goals for the month. They aren’t going to be book-related (starting research on the second book in summer 2013), so I’m instead going to set some aggressive goals for finishing up accumulated side projects:
1. I have a pair of conference papers that are begging for revisions. I’m going to edit both of them, adding a new empirical section to one and heavily revising the lit review and discussion sections of the other. By the end of the month, both will be sent off to journals for review.
2. There’s a short piece on the Occupy Movement that I was invited to write for a journal special issue. That requires combing through all my #occupy blog posts, finding the nuggets of insight that represent genuine contributions, and then rewriting it in the appropriate style. I’m going to do that as well.
3. It’s also time to start properly planning for the second book project. I have a grant proposal deadline in November, and I’d also like to write a draft of the second book proposal.
4. I’ve agreed to blog occasionally for a few outlets. I plan to write at least 3 solid blog posts over the course of November (I’ll post links at ShoutingLoudly).
Those four items unfortunately don’t leave me with a daily word goal to report on twitter to the rest of the #AcWriMo community. But they do leave me with weekly goals. 2 journal submissions, 1 short essay, 1 grant proposal, and 1 book proposal. That’s five substantial projects completed in one month, plus a sprinkling of blog posts. That’s crazy-productive. Just crazy-productive enough, I think.
The writing starts in earnest tomorrow. Here’s hoping it turns out as well as last time.
*Actually, the hardest part of writing is all of the parts. ALL OF THE PARTS ARE THE HARDEST!
**If you think I’m using the word “damn” too much, I’m guessing you haven’t written a book. If you think I’m not using it enough, you definitely have.