Staying Productive over Winter Break

Event Recap of Jumpstart Your Winter Writing, 12/19/17

During the final week of the semester, on December 19th, students, staff, faculty, and community members came together to receive — and offer — advice on keeping the semester’s momentum going over the winter break.

Ulrich Baer, vice provost at NYU and professor in the Department of German, kicked off the afternoon with a reminder that there are about 35 days over winter break — and there’s certainly a lot of writing that can be achieved in that span of time. To stay productive, make a daily writing schedule and do your best to stick to it. Each panelist offered some tips based on their own experiences.

Theresa MacPhail, a writing coach and assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, shared writing tips and recommended that writers “treat [writing] like a job.” Stick to a five-day ‘work’ week and set yourself up for an easy start to writing the next day, what she calls “leaving breadcrumbs.” For example: Instead of finishing up a section and having to start a new chunk the next time you sit down, leave the last few paragraphs to start with the following day.

Pamela Newkirk, a professor at the Arthur L. Journalism Institute at NYU, had her own writing tactics to share. She “finds a place where no one can find [her],” allowing her to be free from as many distractions as possible. “Bad writing is better than no writing,” she urged, emphasizing that it’s important to just keep writing and to stick to your own internal deadlines.

Susan Ferber, executive editor at Oxford University Press, listed concrete steps to preparing the book proposal, reassuring us that “proposals are one thing that are doable within the next 35 days.” The proposal needs to convey the best version of the project, and yourself, while also giving you “the chance to see the big picture” for your own project. It can serve as an outline and motivator in getting your project done.

Finally, Ulrich Baer wrapped the remarks with a timely metaphor for the faculty and instructors in the room: treat writing like you would teaching a class. You prepare in advance and don’t cancel a class because a friend happens to be in town. During class, you don’t have your phone notifications visible, and you aren’t checking emails. Hold yourself accountable in your writing by talking to other people, in brief terms, about your writing project.

Questions from the audience ranged from how best to take notes during the research phase to negotiating a book contract. Listen to the full event below: