Category Archives: phd process

I’m joining #AcWriMo

This year I’m joining Academic Writing Month, aka #AcWriMo.

November is the writing month!  Academics have their own version of National Novel Writing Month called ‘Academic Writing Month’, better known in the twittersphere as #AcWriMo. The idea was announced here by the academic writing website PhD2Published.

studying#AcWriMo revolves around the following principles:

Formulate a goal. Put time in your calendar (days of november) to work on it. The essence is having a concrete goal you commit to and work towards achieving. This concrete goal is in GTD terms a ‘project’ that you break down into smaller actionable (manageable) pieces (e.g. write 350 words a day, edit or revise a piece you have already written down, write for 2 hours a day, or say 4 pomodoros etc.). It’s important for you to state daily accomplishable goals.

Declare it to the world! There is an accountability factor to #AcWriMo. You are not alone, there is a whole public revolving around the twitter hashtag #AcWriMo. That’s how I came across the phenomenon; on twitter.  In a google doc spreadsheet  you can state your overall goal, plan (strategy) and actual achievement progress. What makes the experience special, is the feeling that you form part of a community. A writing community comes into being thanks to the hashtag/spreadsheet. You are part of a community of academics around the world all working towards a writing goal. On the meta level we are more aware also of the writing process on itself. This accountability factor works for me very well. At work I’m part of a small phd accountability group and you can’t imagine how awesome it is to discuss your progress with others; we support each other. Even if I don’t know the people using the hashtag, or the ones who have written down there names in the spreadsheet -personally-, you can read about their progress, you feel connected to them. This makes the writing process a more humane and social process.

Draft a strategy. Instead of ‘binging’ in order to accomplish a paper deadline and feel ‘fried’ afterwards (I have completed a couple of papers this way) you can spend some time thinking and reflecting in order to come up with a more sustainable writing strategy. It’s more than just planning. It’s also a mental preparation thing, envisioning yourself writing and preparing the physical and media-saturated environment for the cause (cleaning your desk of all distracting stuff or stop checking your Facebook newsfeed). It’s about setting time during the day, during the week, and in the month of November, in order to progressively accomplish your goal. PhD2Published emphasizes the importance of having a strategy as follow:

Don’t start AcWriMo without doing a bit of planning and preparation. Get some reading done, carve out time slots in your schedule to dedicate to writing, even buy your favorite coffee

Keep track of your progress (and talk about it with others!). You will see that writing is a labor of love, the more you invest in it, the better you will become at it. Academic writing on itself is a multifaceted process. it’s about developing writing habits and skills that can help you advance as a writer. This involves: planning, mind-mapping, drafting the structure of the paper, reading and taking notes, writing a specific part, feed-backing, concretizing your arguments, re-writing, (killing darlings) and did I say re-writing?! But also other ‘stuff’ like having more patience, dedication, discipline, a writing routine, structure, taking breaks and celebrating each step of the way. This article on 10 ways  you can write everyday taught me how to start perceiving academic writing in diverse ways than just putting words in a linear way on a blank paper/screen. Doing all this in a crowd is the added-value, it’s like being part of a cool party of writers.

Although November is a busy month for me full of other responsibilities, I will do my utmost in keeping my daily writing goals.

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In the messy yet beautiful universe of data I’m searching for the “question” this time, not the answers

In my “scientific”  journey for a more sharp focus for my research en-devour, I try to be “open” for connections, for the emerging creative inquiry process. The art is now, how to define the edge (boundaries) of the circle of focus. I’m pondering on: how to be interdisciplinary in my approach without diminishing argument integrity?  Looking for a new balance between “solid foundations”  (deductive routine) and what  Feyerabend coins as “scientific anarchy” (my interpretation: new inductive chaos). I’m being pulled back and forth between the overwhelming new opportunities of new media (in this case: the possibility of abundant user-generated data) and the” back to basics” research questions. Tomorrow I will only try inductive reasoning and see where that takes me. It feels as if I have an answer, but I still don’t know what my question was in the first place. Inductive is more intuitive, it embraces complexities, it just feels right, but it is an overwhelming ride.

Paul Feyerabend

A quote I came across this week, when reading Bill Viola‘s essay “Will there be Condominiums” in Data Space?” for #nmfs_f11 (blog here)  keeps echoing in my mind:

Scientists always marvel at nature, at how it seems to be some grand code, with a built-in sense of purpose. Discoveries are made which reveal that more and more things are related, connected. Everything appears to be aware of itself and everything else, all fitting into an interlocking whole.”  (Bill Viola, 1982)

I will for now answer Bill Viola’s question he posed in 1982; “Will there be Condominiums in data space?”  with a No. Condominiums are fragmented, as he himself knew more than anyone else. I feel more for an ocean of data, where fluidity represents connectedness.  But the challenge with the more natural “everything is connected” approach is the question: from which angle do I have to look at this perpetual continuity, and what is enough for this project of mine? Or is “the ocean [indeed] without a shore” as the title goes of one of Viola’s art-projects?

Bill Viola’s “Raft” fits the feeling described here perfectly:

Questions, focus…please, do emerge soon…

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How I’m finding back my Mojo

I’m visualizing the summer, and the break that comes with it before me. After some hectic months of teaching, consultation with students on their re-assessment projects and the constantly enlisting of “to-do” check lists of the thousands of activities that I have to get done before my summer starts and a cruel flu that took my body and soul literally over, I can say…

I’m thinking of new beginnings a new way to regenerate positive energies…

Life has been tough the last couple of weeks at the Faculty. Since we are a new faculty only operating for just two years, “changes” are the status quo. You have to be a real flexible dragon in order to survive. Sociologist Zigmunt Bauman‘s coined statement: “living in times of uncertainty” applies to these last two years. Uncertainty teaches you to be flexible and you have to anticipate and leave perfectionism behind and start embracing robust planning & visioning and authentic teamwork.  A wise man once told me that this context values the strategy of Feed-forwarding, rather than the more common “after the facts” feed-backing. Don’t get me wrong feed-back is still one of the greatest tools for learning and working together towards great things. Anyways, to get to the point, operating in a sphere of constant uncertainties has a dark side too, it can generate stress that can have its consequences on everything you do. Stress can sometimes trigger a constant state of fear that can be demotivating and can even paralyze the creative process. It encourages a negative spiral of fear of failure and it sucks you up. You become half the shadow of the woman you really are. Oops, there goes my honest self!

So the questions are: How to not drown in all this work? in all these uncertainties? How to keep your groove shining, or as Austin Power calls it, how to get  your “mojo” back when it slips away (mojo= a slang concept used to describe self-confidence, self-esteem or in the case of Austin his sex-appeal) ? Continue reading

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