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#AcWriMo Debrief

December 11, 2012

After the crushing sleep-deprived agony that preceded my defense, and the soaring high of the defense itself on 6 December and the celebrations afterward, I am back on an even keel and it’s time to debrief on the November Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo on Twitter) exercise that helped me make it to the end.  Here is another good article about the AcWriMo project, and here is the link to the goals I set for myself at the start of November.  In short, with the last goal excepted in which I hoped to write some blog posts (ha!), I met all these goals and then some!  In addition to the original goals I set, I also completed two totally unexpected job applications, and set aside time for some unexpected major revisions to my dissertation’s Introduction and Conclusion.  It boggles the mind how much I actually did last month, including the conference in San Francisco, and family time on Election Day and Thanksgiving, with lots of travel to and from different places.

I have always been a notorious procrastinator, but apart from the #AcWriMo support and camaraderie there were two factors that made last November extraordinarily unique in my career as an academic writer.  First, since the end of July, I have been on a productivity upswing unlike anything I’ve ever known before.  The looming deadline of my dissertation, knowing that it absolutely had to be finished before I return to Indonesia at the end of the year, was the motivator, and each week saw more productivity than the one before it.  So by the time #AcWriMo started, I was already in a concentrated writing mode.  The second factor follows the first.  Once my defense date was fixed on 6 December 2012, again there was just no way I was not going to complete all these tasks in time for it.  And so I did them.  Without these “pre-existing conditions,” I can’t really say whether I would have succeeded as well as I did with #AcWriMo, but knowing me and my habits, I’m guessing it wouldn’t have been as successful.

Having said that, #AcWriMo did offer a social community for what is essentially a very lonely pursuit.  On my breaks, I routinely checked in on the #AcWriMo crowd to see what people were talking about and how they were doing.  Most of my tweets received fun, constructive, or supportive comments.  And I especially appreciated @mystudiouslife‘s academic writing accountability spreadsheet, which I filled in assiduously until the last few days when it got super hairy and impossible to keep track during the final stretch of hypercaffeinated sleepless revisions.  I also learned the value of routine, daily writing, and hope it becomes easier to keep up this rare habit, having seen how well it works.

Now I am in a transitional post-defense phase, sorting out what needs to be done before I head back to Indonesia.  I still have writing tasks, but not like I had in November, so I am not sure how or if I will keep up with the accountability spreadsheet, but I will try to find a way.  For now, I’m still basking in the grateful glow of this moment, when the five members of my dissertation committee passed me at the end of my defense, opened up a bottle of champagne, and concluded the ritual with nothing but the kindest of words:

My dissertation committee prepares a toast at the end of a successful defense.

My dissertation committee prepares a toast at the end of a successful defense.

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