Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Much as I'd love to write a novel, I had to decide that this year NaNoWriMo is probably not for me. Those 50 000 words would do me a lot more good attached to my thesis. Of course, just because I'm not writing 50 000 words of a novel for NaNoWriMo, this doesn't necessarily equate to spending the equivalent amount of time on anything productive.

So following Fussy's lead,* I have decided to create my own spin-off of NaNoWriMo. Let me introduce: International Dissertation Writing Month (InaDWriMo--- Doesn't that just roll off the tongue?) I know, we're supposedly writing our dissertations every month. To which I say (oh-so-articulately), yeah yeah, whatever. You might. I spend most months surfing the internet and playing solitaire.** But November will be different.

The rules:

  1. You can set your own goal for the number of words to write. 50 000 is fine for stuff you can just make up, but a dissertation is generally slower going. I'm going to aim for 45 000 words, because I'm pretty much at the making-shit-up stage of my thesis.

  2. It's up to you whether you choose to count revisions towards your goal or not. I intend to count paragraphs that I substantially rewrite (i.e. if I change the structure of multiple sentences) but not if I just fix grammar or spelling errors.

  3. You are allowed to work on your dissertation before November, and in the months following November too. No, really. It's positively encouraged. But you can only count the words you actually write in November.

  4. You post some indication of progress on your blog: a daily word count, a progress meter, whatever. I want to keep tabs on you :)

  5. You 'register' in the comments to this post. I want to encourage community spirit keep tabs on you :)

So am I on my own, or am I on my own?


* It kind of feels like cheating that I signed up to do Fussy's NaBloPoMo, since I post here every day anyway. But there are prizes! (I don't have prizes for InaDWriMo -- yet. I might still come up with something.) But to increase the level of personal challenge for NaBloPoMo, I am choosing to interpret it as NAtional BLOgging about ParrOts MOnth. I hereby promise you, my loyal readers, that I will take and post a picture of a parrot every day in November. Are you excited yet?

** That's a joke.***

*** Mostly.

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Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

Ooooh! I already wrote a dissertation. But can I participate with other forms of academic writing (research proposals, papers)? I am very behind and need some sort of motivation.

StyleyGeek said...

You could always write another one :)

But yeah, what the hell, let's pretend that the D in InaDWriMo stands for acaDemic instead.

Anonymous said...

I want to play!

Anonymous said...

Yay for acaDemic! I'd like to play too, please! (Unless you'd rather keep it diss-focused.)htt

Twirly said...

how many words do you think are appropriate for a 5 chapter proposal?

Lucy said...

I don't actually have anything to write, unfortunately. Maybe I should count words read, or experiments done or something.

StyleyGeek said...

Lucy, do you write notes about your experiments? Or random scrawly ideas on scraps of paper? (Or if you don't do that, SHOULD you be doing that?) Because that would do. Or you can count words read, if you'd rather.

Twirly, you mean you plan to write the whole thing in November? I have no idea how many words that would be. Our 'proposals' were three pages long :) Maybe you could ask other people in your program how long theirs were? Or set yourself an arbitrary limit. If it ends up being fewer than the total you'll need, that might be a sign that you can't write the whole thing in a month. And if your goal is more words than you need in the end, you can use some of them on revising and rewriting.

New Kid: I have no desire to restrict it to dissertations. I just hadn't thought beyond that originally. The more, the merrier.

Anastasia! Yay!

Jenny said...

That's a lot of parrot pics...

Anonymous said...

Eh, it's been fun reading this blog - but I'm worried for you when I see long elegantly constructed posts, comments and blog carnivals, and then a blog-post a day proposal. Why not set yourself the opposite goal - no more than one blog post a week? No comments on comments? Only looking at your blog stats once a week? Here's the cold water - I'm betting you've produced almost as many words on your blog as you have on your thesis since you started blogging. Look at the 9 months to go before you submit - that's a chapter finalised every two months.

StyleyGeek said...

Anonymous, you really shouldn't make comments like that without giving an indication of who you are. It's times like this when I worry about the local visitor who shows up in my site stats around the same time stamp as your comment, and the fact that someone in my department turned up in my blog stats a few months back.

You are freaking me out, man.

Because obviously, if you are my supervisor and concerned about my thesis, then we need to have a chat. If you are a random internet lurker, then I might have a different response. Feel like sending me an email?

Anonymous said...

Don't panic - am a random internet lurker, but one with fellow-feeling for people trying to go cold turkey on internet addiction and get things like theses done. Think Al-Anon. One step At a Time

Anonymous said...

i think only a non-blogger would fail to realize that blogging is a great boon to academic writing. it isn't as though one has a word quota and words written on the blog are subtracted from words written on the dissertation. Blogging frees my writing, keeps it flowing, and that means I write better, longer, faster prose on my dissertation project.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I heartily agree with anastasia on this one. I started blogging while I was writing my MA thesis, and it was the best thing I could have done, because it connected me with the academic community, during a time that can be so isolating, got me writing on a daily basis (which worked against writer's block), and kept me accountable for how I was working or not working.

And did I mention the fact that I set the departmental record for shortest time to finish an MA?

And considering the fact that styley is obviously making an impressive amount of progress on her dissertation, anonymous clearly doesn't know what he/she is talking about. Anon, your concern is misdirected.

And Styley, I don't know what I can write over the course of November! I guess I'll have to write two short essays and make some progress on an anotated bibliography, but what I mostly should be doing is reading. Maybe I should have my own version, NaReMo, in which I read a book a day? (That would take care of a significant portion of my comps lists.)

StyleyGeek said...

Anonymous, I think that what Anastasia and Q of W Procrastination are saying is true.

There are a couple of other things I would like to say, though, too. Of course, responding to your comment in depth will take valuable time away from my thesis, so maybe I shouldn't :)

I'm worried for you when I see long elegantly constructed posts

If you are a regular reader, you will know that those are the exception. Most of my posts are a few lines long or a short paragraph. I almost never rewrite or edit them, so I spend less than 20 minutes a day posting on the average day.

and then a blog-post a day proposal.

I have written a post a day (sometimes two or three) every day since I started this blog (except when out of town). Nothing is changing here (except more parrots).

Only looking at your blog stats once a week?

I suspect I have joked about being obsessed by stats. Truth is, since I've had more readers so that I get regular comments, I no longer feel the need to check whether anyone is reading or not, because I know they are. I only check my stats when I get freaky comments from anonymous people; otherwise once a week or so.

Now a couple of general comments: I am perfectly satisfied with the progress I am making on the thesis (thanks for your concern). I have a full draft of every chapter bar one and the conclusions. The little widget in the sidebar is not up-to-date, and is about to come down because I can never keep it up-to-date.

I am not deluding myself that revising and rewriting these will be easy or quick, but I think the 6 months that my time-line allows for this is more than enough.

Blogging (and reading blogs) is a hobby like any other. When I think back on what has changed since I started, I play fewer computer games (I used to play at least an hour a day, now I haven't played one in month), and I read for pleasure for only a few minutes before bed instead for hours on end. I think that my blogging and blog reading time has mostly come out of time I used to spend on these two things. Hence, stopping blogging would probably not affect the amount of time spent on my thesis, but only on other hobbies.

I'm sure you wouldn't suggest that PhD students should not do anything outside of their research. Oh, and compared to the average PhD student, I suspect I spend much less time watching TV (not owning a TV helps with that :) ).

Now after all this, you might think I sound very defensive, and that maybe that's a sign of a problem. And I have to say that what upset me about your comment is my strong reaction to it. That made me wonder whether there was any truth in it at all.

So let me talk about what resonates. It is true that I am struggling with my thesis right now. This is not a function of not having enough time to spend on it, but rather I feel as though I picked a sucky project, and that most of what I have to say on the subject is either unoriginal or impossible to prove. This irritates me and demotivates me and makes me feel incompetent.

Yes, it leads to procrastination. And sometimes that procrastination involves blogs. But it would be naive to think that not reading blogs would solve the underlying problem. PhD students procrastinated long before the internet was around.

In other words, I am in no doubt I will finish the thesis, and most likely finish on time. But I am not likely to be happy with the finished product. I hear this is not exactly uncommon for PhD students.

I have to conclude that what you are saying must be more about you than it is about me (the number of times my stats show that you checked my blog yesterday suggests this too). So I'm sorry if you are struggling with controlling your internet use. I hope you sort that out.

Finally (if you've read this far): a word of advice. If you want bloggers to take your comments seriously, you really don't want to post as anonymous. I would have ignored you as a troll were it not that (a) I was freaked out by your local IP address (b) you came back and replied to my question, which showed you would be likely to read any further reply I made and (c) the fact you are reading through an RSS reader suggests you are a regular lurker.

StyleyGeek said...

You could do a NaReMo, Q of W P: maybe you and Lucy together :)

Or you could count the words you take when you make notes on what you are reading. Those plus the essays would no doubt add up.

Twirly said...

proposal should be about 60 pages and i have to turn it to advisors (rough draft by Dec. 1)

Anonymous said...

ok, so am way late on getting in on this. I like several others, already have a dissertation written (phew). But I HAVE to write this paper for my post-doc. And I just am not feeling motivated. So can I play??? pleeeeaaaassee???? (okay, turtlebella re-surfacing from her temporary revision to 12 year old self where all the cool girls won't let her play or whatever it is cool girls did at age 12).

(and for the record: I am totally obssessed with my blog stats. That's not a bad thing! I like numbers! yeah...ummm...errr)

StyleyGeek said...

I don't know what the cool girls were doing aged 12, either. They wouldn't tell me :)

But of course you can play!

Anonymous said...

I think blogging looks much more time-consuming from the outside than it actually is. And I know I procrastinated just as much on other things before I turned to this hobby!

StyleyGeek said...

I generally procrastinated on computer-related things -- random surfing, checking my email compulsively, writing programs to do stuff for me that I could do by hand faster than it would take to write the program.

How did grad students procrastinate before there were computers?

DrOtter said...

OK, you convinced me to sign up for NaNoWriMo, but I have to finish a paper in November as well, so count me in for that with you guys. What else is there to do in November but write? So 50,000 word novel, and full paper. What life?

Weezy said...

Sign me up too! I'm going to have to figure out how to do the word counter thingy-- but other than that- I'm a go. Today will be spent knocking out some smaller crap- (quizzes and exams that must be written next month) so I can write write write!! Thanks for hte great idea!

Peri said...

Sign me up quick!
I'm sooooo in need of this.
I went to a dissertation writing workshop last week and they really stressed the 'doing it every day thing' and trying to normalize the writing process on the diss. so it doesn't feel like the biggest freakin' thing in our lives. I appreciated that and hearing that if you aren't writing daily you might just want to start working on the diss. 30 minutes a day. I'm hoping it will help. Thanks for spearheading this, Styley!

StyleyGeek said...

Excellent! New people! Hooray.

Weezy, if you can't sort out a wordcounter in the sidebar, you can always just post how many words you wrote at the end of each day...

Peri, they've been telling us here that we should write write write every day since the start of our candidature. And I did. Now I'm not entirely sure I agree it was a good thing. The chapters I wrote two years ago bear no resemblance to anything I want to have in the thesis anymore. And although the thinking that went into the writing isn't wasted, the hours spent polishing it, checking references, formatting and so on probably were. If I could do it again, I think I'd write notes to myself every day, and work on things like the lit review early on, but leave the real dissertation writing until I knew what I wanted to argue.

dino said...

Count me in... I'm not quite at the disseration stage (like, four years away), but I am trying to write a 4000 word review...

Bobita said...

Hi! First time visiting...but I did a search for "dissertation writing month" hoping that someone had taken off from Fussy's lead...and here you are!

Woo-hoo! So, I hope it is okay that I join the fun. I'm a day late...but I wrote on my POD yesterday, swear to God.

My goal is a completed POD by the 31st...

Good luck to everyone else!

Anonymous said...

i can't believe i missed this! i just mused on such a thing a few days ago!


elle, from elleabd.blogspot.com (too lazy to sign in)

Silvia Straka said...

I AM writing my diss -- final final deadline for early December.

I'd like to join, however, I'm past the writing process and in the midst of doing zillions of revisions. And alas, Nov. 30 is too late -- I actually need to get my revisions done before the end of the month. But I really like this idea.

Can I join with the goal of a certain number of pages revised per day?

StyleyGeek said...

Iris, Brazen Hussy, over at What the Hell is Wrong with You is running this year's InaDWriMo. And plenty of people are doing revisions instead of writing too!

Dissertation Writing Help said...
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leigh said...

I'm in !

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