Pacing Yourself for Larger Papers and Projects

Pacing Yourself for Larger Papers and Projects

In case it has not yet become apparent, the idea of writing as a leisurely and meditative activity is something of a myth.  Large spaces of time in which to ponder life, the universe, and everything rarely fall into our laps.  If they do, they are likely to be accompanied by dental emergencies, car trouble, or a backed-up sewer line in the  kitchen the day before the arrival of your holiday host guests.  Is it any wonder that St. Jerome found a nice quiet cave in which to translate the Vulgate?

So how are you to manage a large research paper or project?  Here are some ideas I hope you find useful:

  • You have to fight for time to write. Nobody will give it to you and very few people will make it easy to hang onto.  This is battle, folks.  You want it?  Come and take it.
  • Start early. Get organized as soon as you can, and then work to stay organized.  Create an outline for the project and a timeline for your writing.  Whatever it takes and however you want to do it.  Just do it.
  • Do a little bit of work each week. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the body of your work builds up into something significant.
  • In the same vein, try to do whatever you can in the little snippets of time you get: in your child’s carpool line, waiting at the pharmacy, or during the pre-game show at sporting events.  You will be amazed at how many sentences you can knock out in the time it takes to check Facebook.
  • Keep a method of recording your thoughts with you at all times so you don’t lose that brilliant insight.
  • Plan what you want to say before you sit down at the computer. You can do this while exercising, showering, whatever.  Think through enough of your project to have an inkling of where it’s going to take you.
  • Structure is essential. If you don’t have one assigned, then create one.  And don’t underestimate the time it takes to do that.
  • Sync your work. As much as possible, try to relate your diverse bits of research so that you can borrow information collected in one for another.
  • Schedule time for serious re-writing and editing. A first draft is only a first draft.  Create a second draft and then schedule a time to ask your readers to review your work.

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