How Do You Write Productively (Installment 2)?

Perhaps I should better call this, how not to write productively. I’m about to air my own dirty laundry, in the service of learning, blogging, and honesty. I’ll be sending this post in two days late, and the reason why is largely because of my adjunct work situation…or at least, how I dealt with it this week.

You see, I teach for more than one school. One of the schools I teach for has been offering fewer sections for me to teach, and so I have been applying to new schools in hopes of, um, paying the mortgage. One of the schools I applied to hired me, and I’ve been going through their training to teach online this week. The problem? They gave very specific deadlines by which the training must be completed, and then their server crashed and slowed and sloooowed and…yeah. I spent the time I usually spend writing this waiting to move from page to page within a training website (more than a minute per click) and the sheer frustration drove the blog out of my head. Mea culpa.

Now, about the question of if adjunct working conditions ever affect scholarly production…ahem. Suffice it to say that I admit it: the personal productivity gurus are correct. I could have overcome this. I didn’t. However, I would have had to overcome it if my schedule weren’t popping like popcorn.

Turning back to the question of how to write productively (as an adjunct), I thought I’d draw a little inspiration from a few writing heroes.

Take a glance here and here for lists of extremely productive literary writers. Immediately you’ll see that in terms of general productivity, you can take a lesson from the industrial age (and your savvy lazy students): write the same thing over and over, or the same sort of thing. This is done in genre fiction; it can be done in scholarship. Phrased more acceptably, you might think of it as capitalizing on your existing knowledge base, or as finding a rich vein you can explore in depth. In either case, working in what Kuhn called normal science would make it easier to be productive: work within an established framework, working out the implications of paradigms already established, rather than insisting on seeking groundbreaking discoveries.

To write productively, you might also consult existing literature to see what research says about productive writers. A recent article in the Journal of Education for Business studied the characteristics of the most productive academic writers working in the field of accounting. It found that the most productive writers (in that field) collaborated with others, and tended to produce longer articles when they did so. Ambitious adjuncts might therefore seek out writing partners; this would also address the lack of connection many adjuncts feel.

Another step that would generate connection and productivity but that might be difficult for adjuncts is hiring researchers to work for you. It’s a common tool of academic superstars. Lack the funds for that? Yeah, me too. (Remember where we started…)

One set of tools that might work for anyone regardless of financial status is to use tools of academic productivity. In general, this means getting rid of excuses, writing on a schedule, holding yourself to deadlines and quotas, and setting up a writing/scholarship support group, so you aren’t in this alone.

There are other suggestions, and I’ll be sharing those as well in future weeks. Promise.

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