Summer Writes: Week 1


Welcome to the beginning of the third installment of Summer Writes! I’ve listed our goals for both the summer and the week below. At the end of the week (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday—whatever constitutes the end of the writing week for you) come back and update us on your progress in a comment to this post, and let us know your goals for week 2. I’ll collect those into another post for week 2, and so it goes until mid-August. Remember that specific and manageable goals tend to work best for keeping momentum and morale up!

Roberta mentioned using SelfControl to block out distracting websites. I frequently use the Pomodoro Method (and specifically and app called Focus Time) to help myself stay on task, and recently I began using Evernote to implement the Getting Things Done method. Are there any other tools you’ve found useful for writing or organizing your work? Let us know in the comments!

And if you’re on the fence about joining us, go ahead and leave your goals in the comments as well. It’s never too late to join. And, as always, happy writing!


Steph: Revisions for manuscript due by August 29th. This requires some more reading as well as cutting/adding. My goal is to work on 10 pages a day of cutting/revising.

Dylan: Picking up a semi-dormant research thread–that means interviews and archives for a few weeks, then 2-3 hours per day of writing. My goal: an article-length piece I’m not ashamed of by the end of August.

Meg: For the week: Oh, and next week’s goal: return to data analysis and start mapping out chapter 1. Writing schedule: MWThFSa 9am to 2pm.

For the summer: 1) Two chapters of the dissertation by July 31. They can be sloppy, and I’m not starting from scratch on either of them.
2) Finalize job application materials for ye olde job market.


My goal for the summer is to have a full draft (minus intro and conclusion) of the guts of the dissertation no matter how messy. I have moving parts of the work but not in any coherent narrative so while not from scratch, it is a major undertaking. While I will post specific goals for each week, I have an overall plan of writing M-F from 7:30am-11:30am using a modified Pomodoro method of 4-50 minute sessions with 5 minute breaks in between. I will use the SelfControl App during those hours to avoid the temptation of surfing the web or going down rabbit holes. Those hours are WRITING and not other tasks like mini research session or entering/tagging sources into Zotero. That work will happen each afternoon in preparation for the following day.

My goal for the first week is to make one final research trip to DC for 5 days to read, scan materials I was unable to get to last summer. The writing sessions begin on May 27th.


Two main goals for the summer: turn one of my dissertation chapters into an article and submit for publication, and get a formal proposal for the edited collection based on my oral history project. Monday of this week I’m not setting a writing goal because I have other things to do, but the rest of the week I’m setting a goals of eight poms Tuesday through Friday. Specifics to do this week:

– read through the relevant chapter for holes and revisions
– go back through my notes in Scrivener on this chapters to see what I planned to do with it post-defense
– condense the two separate book proposals I have into a single document

Nicole: Get dissertation submitted to  committee by mid June. The defense is in early July. There are a lot of things that need to happen first to get it in shape and vetted by my advisor (some is, some isn’t yet).
This week I need to:
1) Get co-authored paper in for conference Monday, so all the last minute stuff has to happen tomorrow. Joint decisions, transitions, spell check, reference check, formatting check, etc. If this can be done by 2 pm, that would be great. (Then I need to a make plan to turn paper into short talk with coauthors so this does not eat up too much time now.)
2) Get as far as possible revising diss empirical chapter 2, by filling in info on the cases, now that I have restructured the argument and lit review.
3) Do the methods chapter– this will not be that bad but has been delayed. It is mostly fusing together existing writing.
4) Expect critical feedback to get back to me about empirical chapter 3. Hopefully it will not be dire. I have to avoid being discouraged by this.

Melanie: My goals for the summer are to turn in the first half of my dissertation (meaning I will revise two chapters, and write another) and to finish the research as best I can during my two month stay in Chicago (which, writing-wise, I think will mean rounding out summer with a pretty good outline of the latter half of the project). While in Chicago, I’m shooting to spend some part of MTThF doing archive work, and making sure that Wednesdays are a writing and processing day so I don’t get burnt out and overwhelmed. I am also working on a conference paper for early June and beginning collaboration for turning it into a co-authored piece but I am keeping my writing goals pretty focused on the dissertation.

Chez: I’m defending my dissertation next month, so I’m pretty narrowly focused on that, as well as a collaborative conference paper. Goals for this week (likely spilling into next week):
1) Major revisions to my introduction and literature review. Currently, it is very rough, so this is a big task that requires reading, synthesizing, and writing.
2) Write conclusion
3) Format dissertation in line with Graduate School requirements (due June 1st)
4) Complete conference paper (today!)
5) Work on conference powerpoint/presentation
Schedule: Today is devoted to the conference paper. Tuesday is filled with non-work things I’ve been putting off. Wednesday-Friday work 10 a.m.-6 p.m.


Spring Writes: Week 10

We (set writing goals) flawless(ly).
We (set writing goals) flawless(ly).

Sorry for the tardiness in posting! I entered my thirties on Monday with an awesome head cold, so I’ve been a little out of sorts and playing catch up all week. Next week we’ll be back to our regular schedule, I promise.

In the meantime, check out this time management post from Natalie Houston at ProfHacker. I’ve been interested in the GTD method for a while now, but (ironically) can’t seem to find the time to learn more about it. I’ve been using the pomodoro method for some time now, along with very long and detailed to-do lists, but we all want to be more productive, right? So, any GTD aficionados out there? Whether or not you are, tell us about your approach to time management in the comments!

And now, your weekly goals:

Nicole: My goal for this week is to actually make empirical Ch. 3 of my diss. coherent. I had to redo some of the analysis. I am still trying to make it clear and logically follow the last one better. Also, getting from concepts to measures has to be clearer. Separate goal: do the writing for my joint paper, writing up what we laid out in our meeting.

Meg: My main aim for this week is to firm up some analysis I’ve been working on for what will eventually be a diss. chapter. I’m presenting this analysis at a grad. student conference on Friday. To do this, I want to commit to myself to work on my stuff tomorrow (Monday) from 11am to 3pm, Wednesday from noon to 4pm, and Friday morning before the conference.

Spring Writes!

Editor capybara says to use less jargon. Photo from this squee-inspiring forum thread.
Editor capybara says to use less jargon. Source: this squee-inspiring thread.

Winter break: it’s great for your sanity (unless you got caught in the Polar Vortex, that is) and maybe even good for a research trip, but probably not so great for your writing schedule. So with that in mind, we’re kicking off another writing group this Monday, January 20th! Between now and then, leave a comment on this post to introduce yourself, tell us your overall goals for the spring, and what you’re going to do during the first week. On Monday, I’ll put up a post with all of our weekly goals. As the week comes to a close, come back and let everyone know how you did, and what you want to accomplish the following week. We’ll repeat that for the following eleven weeks. The point of the group is to keep ourselves accountable to incremental tasks building to our larger goals, so it works best if we post every week.

When you’re setting your goals, be specific and realistic. Instead of saying, “I’m going to write every day,” let us know how long or how much you’re going to write, on which days. Are you going to write two hours each day? Four pages a day? Five pomodoros? Are you shooting for a #graftonline? Keeping Historiann‘s cloister-like schedule? Are you going to read some books or articles? Spend a day in archives? Look for grants and fellowships? Let us know! The more specific you are with your goals, the more you’re likely to get done. And instead of planning to write a trilogy of monographs in twelve weeks, set goals that are challenging but attainable. They don’t even need to be writing goals! Maybe you want to finish up all of the research for your dissertation. Maybe you want to launch a website based on your project. We are here to affirm your choices! Just make sure that your goals are realistic, or you’re likely to get disappointed and burn out.

And that’s it! Simple, right? By the Passover/Tax Day/Easter/Earth Day rolls around, you’ll have accomplished more than you would otherwise, and you’ll have a record of all the work you did during the semester!