In My Own Head Consume, I Sit Down in My Room

Lately I have been tasked with a lot of writing to do. I’m writing a chapter for a book on the field that my research is in, which is a good thing for me to get done, but I started it quite late. I had to finish a 9,000-12,000 word chapter in 2 weeks. Here’s how I set it up:

  1. For the first week, write 2,000 words each day.
  2. For the second week, edit the words already written.

The first half of the schedule was easier than I thought it would be. In general, writing in my field doesn’t usually happen that fast, but the subject is something I’m pretty versed in, so it was not too hard to get 2,000 words out. I had a clear defined goal for each day that once I met, I could feel okay about not working on the project for the rest of the day. I also only had to write 6 days, and I was able to take the seventh day off. Both of these combined made it a lot easier to not feel guilty about being behind.

Editing is a bit more abstract and ongoing than the writing part, so it’s hard to tell how well it’s really going. There are some easy parts like fixing grammar and proofreading to make sure you don’t repeat yourself, but there are also a good portion of hard parts as well, like which sections to cut a bunch of words in, and which word choice should be made in a particular spot. I’m at the point where some things NEED to be cut because the document is too long, so I have to make some hard choices.

I also met with my advisor last week and we discussed my progress toward finishing my Ph. D. I had been thinking about this problem for a while now and was glad that it was also on his mind as well. We agreed that I would set the goal for having my orals done by the end of this year (christmas). I am thinking I will use a similar tactic to the chapter that I am writing, but on a much slower schedule, so next week I will start writing 500 words a day, and do that for a couple months. This will leave me with 30,000 words that I will then edit down by quite a bit, reducing it by almost half. Hopefully this will make the process easier as it has for the chapter.

If writing my thesis proposal works well this way, I hope I can use a chunk of it for the final thesis, which I want to finish one year after my orals, putting me on track for graduating at the end of 2009. I’m looking forward to that.