Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
Cope with Time Constraints
From Aspiring Author to Published Scholar
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing
After I was encouraged to submit a proposal for a book on controversial issues in education for practitioners, I contacted doctoral candidates and recent program alumni to contribute chapters. Publication was just about guaranteed and all of students and former students delivered the chapters on time and in good shape, even though all of them were busy professionals with full-time jobs. This example illustrates that time is not the issue. Every human being on the planet, no matter how accomplished, has the same 24 hour day to work with; the difference is in how that time is allocated. Consider a study of faculty in the field of dentistry; the number one reason that unpublished faculty gave for failing to write was lack of time (Srinivasan, Poorni, Sujatha, & Kumar, 2014). Yet if time is the only variable, are we then to assume that those who publish aren’t as busy as their unpublished colleagues? Clearly, there are other variables at play because, when authors are convinced that they can succeed, they suddenly “find” time for writing.
Nevertheless, time management is important for authors as it is for any professional. To maximize writing efficiency, plan writing sessions for a place that is well-equipped, a time that is free of distractions, and a time of day when you do your best writing (Gonce, 2013). Chances are, no one is going to “give” you time to write—that is, until after you have a track record of success and qualify for a sabbatical leave.
Most scholarly writing is accomplished between classes, over the weekend, in the wee hours, and during breaks when no one takes notice. Try keeping a log of how you actually spend your time; many people watch television for several hours throughout the week and this might be a place to begin. Look also at otherwise wasted time, such as sitting in a doctor’s office, making a long commute, or waiting at a sporting event. Keep a “writer’s bag” with whatever you need—voice recorder, tablet computer, note paper, laptop, or paper copy of a manuscript draft—so that you can use this time productively. Consider doing two things at once, such as reading and marking passages with post-it notes while riding an exercise bike or dictating ideas while on a treadmill. Even the hugely successful children’s book author of the Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling, observes: “The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance.” Another way to “make” time for writing is to approach your writing as you would any other important appointment. A highly successful university professor once said, “The best advice that my mentor/colleague gave to me was to put writing time on my calendar and guard it just as zealously as classes, meetings, and other important appointments.” Accept the simple fact that scholars do not experience success with a manuscript unless they first lavish time on it. Time is a precious resource. When writers are stingy with their time, their results tend to be paltry.