Winter Writing

I think that winter is my favourite time to write. I set up my computer at home in front of the fireplace and tap away, immersed in my books and ideas. The days that I am on campus tend to be filled with meetings, classes, conversations with students, and assorted interruptions. While I enjoy the social aspect of being at the university, one of the wonderfully flexible aspects of being a professor is being able to work at home on my writing days.

From my research on fiction writers, I have learned that there is a lot of overlap in terms of strategies that successful writers employ to get work projects completed and published. Some fiction authors set word count limits that they strive to achieve each day. Most authors have more or less set hours that they work regularly on their writing. Key to success is the ongoing self-discipline of setting and meeting specific targets.

In the summer I taught the introductory course in Educational Foundations to our Ph.D. cohort. One of the exercises I gave to the students asks them to reflect on the kinds of activities that they will need to do to develop good scholarly habits such as reading theory, writing on a regular basis, and organizing their schedule to accommodate multiple and diverse demands on their time.

With my own writing I always have a series of projects on the go. I usually have one at the conceptual/initial research stage, another that is my main focus with a targeted date for submission to the publisher, and the third will be something that is coming back my way for final copyedits. I usually try to have one independent and one co-writing project going on at the same time, as that way when my co-author is working on the project for a period of time, then I shift gears back to my sole-authored piece.

The length of time that it takes to get published often surprises students. The quickest turnaround that I have had on a journal article was just under a year, from the time of conceptualizing the topic to seeing it in print. The longest was when I had a piece accepted in a fairly prestigious journal in the UK that only published twice a year. The article had been accepted and was with the publisher when it came back to me with copyedits that were due back within 36 hours. The only problem was that the paper arrived a day after Hurricane Juan hit Halifax – we had no power, no water, and no internet for a week. This was before the internet was quite as widespread or easily accessed on our phones. For several days we were occupied with cutting down and clearing the trees that had fallen on our property, hauling water, and managing all the work that needed to done for the clean-up. By the time I got back to work, accessed my email, and realized that the copyedits had come my way, I had missed the deadline. I wrote to the editors who were sympathetic, but the next 3 editions were filled. By time it was published, it was four years from when I started writing the article – but despite the delay, it’s always sweet when you finally see your writing in print!

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