Submitted by Hilary Eppley / DePauw University on Thu, 07/23/2009 - 16:47
This post is prompted from a conversation with my CUR mentee, a relatively new faculty member who asked for advice on finding time to write. Though I am not necessarily the best role model for this, one thing that has worked for me (at least when I've been able to do it!) is a regular research writing session with a colleague, not a chemist, but another faculty member in a different discipline. Since our second year as faculty members, we set aside one afternoon per week to have lunch and then sequester ourselves away in the library or other out of the way place to write for the afternoon. We would set this up at the beginning of the semester before all the meetings got set and try to honor this appointment as much as humanly possible. We've gotten a bit lax in the last year or so (other commitments tend to creep in), but it worked really well when we were untenured faculty. What other things have people tried to get this precious time for writing?
Nancy Williams / Scripps College, Pitzer College, Claremont McKenna College
That's a great idea, Hilary. I've certainly struggled with writing, as it seems everyone does. OK, maybe not everyone, but those who find writing very easy won't admit it in public, for fear of being pummeled by their colleagues. While this only works if you have a collaborator, the best writing experience I've ever had was with a grad student, in which we would both be working on the document simultaneously, and chatting over Skype. We found that having another person involved kept us both on task, and having a sounding board, and someone to look at rewrites of text blocks (which we copy-and-pasted into a Google Doc) made the writing go SO much more smoothly. In a way, it's similar to your buddy system, but where you're actually working on the same project, and able to mutually reinforce the writing itself, not just the fact that you're writing.
Sun, 07/26/2009 - 14:14 Permalink
Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College


That's a great idea, but there is no way I could make that work.  I can't spend an afternoon away, as much as I would like to. 

My multi-part solution is painful but it works for me.

a)  write at 5am.  I get up most days at 5 anyway, and 1/2 of the days I run, the other half I write.  It is important to sever the internet connection while doing this.

b)  learn to use 15 minute blocks of time.  Its amazing how many 15 minute blocks of time you can accumulate during a day.  I have a folder on my desktop with all my active current writing projects (proposals, papers, talks, etc) in there, so I can just pop one open and start with whichever one is most appealing at that instant.  Just get the words down, and edit later!

I think I may try to make a date with someone regularly to, if not write together, at least check in and make sure we are staying on task!


Sun, 07/26/2009 - 17:18 Permalink
Chip Nataro / Lafayette College
You can't do this with every student, but what has worked well for me is having the students write as much as possible.  Even if it is just the experimental.  Even if it is a steaming pile of fecal matter.  Make them do some of the work.  They are actually excited about it since it is their work and they see a potential publication.  And I have found it to be so much easier to edit.  At least there is something on the screen in front of you.  And usually the kids do a good job of keeping you working.  After they hand you something it usually takes a week before they start asking if you have looked at it yet.
Tue, 07/28/2009 - 15:28 Permalink