Writing is not optional for academics. It’s one of the key benchmarks for tenure and promotion. But how do you kickstart your writing and build successful writing rhythms and habits? 

We often try a writing binge or attend a writing intensive. But, terms like “crash,” “binge,” or even “intensive” carry negative connotations of unsustainable and unhealthy work habits. By contrast, “sprint” is a more appropriate word for a writing practice intended to motivate over a short period of time. It offers an energizing metaphor with an implied finish line. 

The Adams Center will host its inaugural writing sprint May 20-21, 2024. This brief article explains the concept of a writing sprint quite well.

In a Spring session previewing the upcoming writing sprint, Dr. Shelly Sanders, Writer-in-Residence, shared some thoughts and insights about writing habits.

  • When writing, stop at a place where you’re in the middle of something rather than at the end of a thought so that when you resume writing, you can pick back up in an unfinished place.
  • Leave notes on your desk about each project to keep various writing projects separate, but at your fingertips.
  • Visualize: Summarize your end goal or main theme(s) in a couple words or even a simple line drawing and write it on a post-it note and stick it to your computer monitor or keyboard.
  • Make your mark: You have to start somewhere! “If a writer is any good, what he makes will have its source in a realm much larger than that which his conscious mind can encompass and will always be a greater surprise to him than it can ever be to his reader.” Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners
  • Hold tight to the tail of the tiger: “So how is the first sentence? It’s good. It’s okay for a reader, but I don’t care, I can’t even think that way here. It’s good for the writer because it creates what I’ll call inventory– there’s something in it.. I’m constantly looking for things that are going to help me find the next sentence, survive the story.” Ron Carlson, Ron Carlson Writes a Story
  • Staying in the Room: A Meditation, by Ron Carlson… “The most important thing a writer can do after completing a sentence is to stay in the room.” “The writer is the person who stays in the room.” “ What will help you stay in the room? Two things: staying specific and not stopping. If I don’t know the woman’s name, I use Doris. For a man: Mickey. I’ve been using Mickey and Doris in examples (and in first drafts) for 20 years. I specify all types of things; if I don’t know the car, it’s a Buick. I like the word Buick. To reach for your… thesaurus…is a mistake. (Worse: Google…) You aren’t looking for the right name, you’re looking for a reason to stop.”
  • The Most Valuable 20 Minutes… also from Ron Carlson: “All the valuable writing I’ve done in the past ten years has been done in the first twenty minutes after the first time I’ve wanted to leave the room.”

For more information or to RSVP for the Writing Sprint, please email Amy Boone at alb17a@acu.edu.