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Productive Writer No. 12


Pick Your Strategy


The previous posting, which encouraged you to write first thing in the morning before you are fully awake and before your critical, judgmental left brain starts to create anxiety or tempt you to postpone your writing, prompted some additional suggestions. 


At our weekly Cornell Graduate School-sponsored TGIF (Tell Grads It's Friday, to get graduate students out of the lab and the library for a 3-hour social event), one chemistry doctoral student told me he has found a new strategy to motivate himself to continue writing. He sets the timer on his phone to see how many minutes he can write before he starts looking for something to distract himself. (I'm trying it now! I'm sleepy, I'm hungry, and I'm certain there is some momentous tweet or news happening in the world that I should be searching for on the internet; but this strategy seems to be working for me.) This chemistry student is up to nine minutes of focused attention without wanting to interrupt himself. But being a highly competitive (and successful) individual, it is motivating him to write for longer stretches and become more productive. To be clear, this is not the length of his writing sessions; this is how long he writes before his mind starts losing focus. Then he fights it and keeps writing. [He later sent an update: His new personal best is 17 minutes before he starts looking for something to distract him. Try to beat that!]


A student from our most recent Dissertation Writing Boot Camp said she woke up to no electricity during a January snow storm in Ithaca. The perfect morning to go back to sleep. But she decided to start writing that early morning. She wrote for two hours until her laptop died, then grabbed a pen and paper and kept writing for what was her most productive day ever. She did this all while in bed under the mound of blankets waiting for the power to be restored. But whether it was the beautiful snow (or insert your own adjective--I'm from Louisiana; snow is always beautiful and fun for me) or the chance to stay in bed all day and write, this change was enough to motivate her to greater writing productivity.


Pick your strategy and try to set a new personal best when you write today, you highly competitive and successful individual, you!


Jan Allen, Associate Dean

Academic and Student Affairs

Cornell Graduate School