I asked academic women joining my I Should Be Writing! Facebook group: “What’s the biggest obstacle between you and writing more?” Here’s what you all said:
“Time management and my teaching load at a teaching intensive university”
“Time and motivation”
“Distractions, time, fear of failure”
“Time management and split focus”
“Time, motivation, lack of confidence”
“Juggling teaching and chairperson work”
See the pattern? In this blog post, I want to really dig deep into why most people think that time is the biggest obstacle to writing more, and then convince you that actually, time is just one small piece to the prolific publishing puzzle.Time management is just one small piece to the publishing puzzle.Click To Tweet
The importance of writing in your academic career
Everyone knows that writing and publishing are the backbone of an academic career (whether we like it or not). Publications get you a job and keep you that job. With a strong publication record, you are more mobile, more confident, and a better teacher/researcher. If your writing and publishing is healthy, you feel secure in your career and can fight back imposter syndrome (easier said than done, I know!).
Writing is how we show the world our expertise. But most importantly, writing is how we contribute to our fields and make the world better. We need to write more because there are problems to be solved, new ways to look at the world, and deeply important understandings that need to be heard.
This is not to say that you are not a good academic if your publication record is not what you want it to be. But there is a reason that academic women what to write and publish more. There is also a very clear reason that writing and publishing more is extremely difficult.
You are doing too many things
Let me say that again: you are doing too many things. It feels like academia is pulling you in a thousand directions because academia is pulling you in a thousand directions. Seriously.
You have so many things on your list—many of which fall into the “urgent” category, like giving a lecture tomorrow or grading final exams—that writing keeps falling to the bottom of the list. It’s not that you don’t want to do it, it’s that it never really feels urgent in the way that other things are, so even though it is very important, you just keep not getting to it.
Why you think it’s about time (but it’s really about so much more)
Because of this, it feels like time is your obstacle. If you just had more time, an extra day in the week, say, reserved for writing only, then you would write and it would all be fine.
Actually, that’s not true. If you had an extra day in the week for work, you would still grade and answer email and go to too many committee meetings. In fact, there are plenty of people who have gone on sabbatical with the sole purpose of writing and have not completed their writing projects (or not as much as they wanted to).
That’s because writing more is not about time.
The key to writing more is putting writing first. It is about creating a real, lasting shift in the way that you see yourself and your work that makes writing the foundation of everything else. Once writing is truly set as that foundational block, everything else falls into place.The key to writing more is putting writing first.Click To Tweet
You are probably thinking, “Yep, sounds good, Cathy, but I can’t possibly do that!” I hear you. The kind of shift I’m talking about is not easily accomplished. It is not just reading this article and ta-daa! it is so. But this shift is learnable. You can take action and make the shift happen.
How to write more if it’s not about time
Here’s what you need to do to write more. Truly, sustainably write more.
- Get clear on your academic mission. You need to have an articulated academic mission statement that will drive your career. This mission is at its core the change you want to make in the world through your academic work.
- Align your activities. Use your academic mission statement to say “no” to projects that don’t align with it. All your energy needs to support that mission.
- Manage your time. Since I already told you that you are doing too many things, it is time to pull back. Yes, I’m talking about strategically quitting stuff. You are doing too many things!
- Develop your writing system. To have confidence in your writing, you need a process. You have to establish a predictable system for writing that works for you.
- Manage your mindset. You have to believe you are a writer, that you deserve to be published. This is so hard, but you can do it!
- Set up your publication pipeline. Map out a plan for publication and figure out where things tend to get stuck for you on this plan.
- Map out your year. You should be thinking about your career strategically, so that you are driving it (instead of it driving you!).
To help you do these things, I’ve created a free 10 Ways To Make Time To Write cheat sheet. This is the first step that you can take to write more FOR REAL. Get it here.