Everyone (in academia) needs an Acadominatrix

Most researchers love research but finding the time and energy for serious writing is a real problem. We write all the time. But no amount of emails, blogposts and tweets will get you tenure (or whatever the local equivalent).

We complain and dream about having more time. Which is translated into the dream of being showered in research funding. But who has time to write applications we moan collectively. So we struggle and embarrassedly attempt to disguise the wrecks of unfinished texts that litter our careers. Sure money is a problem and time is even more so. But what we really need is self-discipline, the mother of all deadlines, the biggest whip that will crack us into action and keep our cold fingers typing.

Enter the wacky world of AcWriMo with its founder, overenthusiastic cheerleader and residing Acadominatrix Charlotte Frost.

The project is devised around social shaming and a shared support group among suffering equals (more details here) and has six easy steps:

1. Set yourself some crazy goals. My #acwrimo goal: 25000 words in November. Beginning on a book on how technologies (and law and norms) regulate us.
2. Publicly declare your participation and goals. Well I declared it on twitter, this blog and soon on Facebook.
3. Draft a strategy. Is write like the devil is chasing you a strategy? No? well I plan to write 1000 words a day for 25 out of November days. Missing a day will result in needing to write 2000 words the next day. Need to put this in my calendar somehow. Worst case scenario? I will sleep in December.
4. Discuss what you’re doing. The fellow madmen are extremely supportive and funny. Using twitter & facebook to update on work done, goals missed and a lot of information about which tea they are drinking. Writing like this becomes less lonely and talking about the goals gives me a renewed reachable goal each day.
5. Don’t slack off. Major, major problem. The list offers support but sticking with the program is tough. Not to be made easier this year with the release of Assassins Creed III on October 31 (damn you Ubisoft!) Here is where the whip crack of social shaming and the role of resident Acadominatrix, with an ability to crack virtual whips comes in.
6. Publicly declare your results – and please be honest! Win or lose this is the best part. Aside from some academics that seem to have an inhuman ability we are all human and the way forward is to admit that.

So don’t think about it – just do it! This will be my second round and it was lots of fun. I failed miserably for my overambitious goal last year but I still produced a lot of text. Talked a lot more about my research and writing than I normally do and discovered (which I really always knew) that I wasn’t alone.

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