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Pack Hacks for Faculty: Jumpstart Your Summer Writing

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Welcome back to Pack Hacks for Faculty. Each month, a member of the NC State faculty will provide quick tips, advice and other insight to facilitate your teaching, research, scholarship or engagement activities. If you are interested in making a submission for a future Pack Hacks for Faculty, please review our submission guidelines and contact if you have questions.

This month, Joy Gaston Gayles, Higher Education program coordinator and professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development, gives advice on gearing up for summer writing.

Jumpstart Your Summer Writing

Joy Gaston Gayles

Joy Gaston GaylesSummer break is a couple of weeks away and if you’re anything like me you’re excited about the chance to focus on research and writing! Most faculty look forward to summer break because they haven’t been able to allocate enough time to writing and research during the academic year in ways that align with requirements for tenure and promotion. The reality is that most of us align our time based on what’s urgent, not on what’s important. Writing, unfortunately, is one of those important tasks that’s superseded day-in and day-out by urgent tasks.

We engage in this behavior all year long and find ourselves waiting for long blocks of uninterrupted time to get our ideas on paper and out the door for publication. If this describes your experience, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The good news is that there are a lot of resources that can help you better align your time with your priorities so that you can do the important work first and on a regular basis.

Try Writing for 30 minutes a Day

Thirty minutes may not seem like enough time to focus and solidify your ideas, but over time, productivity in short bursts becomes much easier. Research supports that the most productive people work in smaller increments of time — that includes productive people in both corporate America and in academia (see this Forbes article). Robert Boice is one of the leading scholars on faculty productivity and his work provides a great deal of evidence to support that faculty who write everyday publish far more than faculty who wait for summer break and other large blocks of time to produce scholarship.  

NC State maintains a membership with the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), which means that you can access all of the resources for free. If you’re interested in giving daily writing a try, I suggest signing up for the next 14-day writing challenge. The 14-day writing challenge provides a structured way for you to experiment with writing for 30 minutes (minimum) a day in a supportive community. All you have to do is sign up and commit to writing for at least 30 minutes a day (Monday – Friday) for 14 days.

In addition, NCFDD has a full faculty development curriculum of webinars for professional development. If you’re interested in learning more about establishing a daily writing habit, I suggest checking out the March 2018 webinar on “How to Establish a Daily Writing Habit.” The webinar shares 12 steps for writing productivity that can help jumpstart your summer writing.

Create Accountability for Writing

A sobering reality for faculty is that research, writing and scholarship lack the kind of accountability needed to be productive and feel good about it. I am a former binge and bust writer, meaning writing occurred for me when I had a deadline. My writing practice consisted of waiting until right before the deadline to put words on the screen. Engaging in this kind of binge writing led to exhausting myself to the point where I didn’t want to write again; at least not until there was another deadline, which placed me right back in the binge and bust cycle. Again, if this story relates to your experience, don’t worry, you’re not alone. To get out of the binge and bust cycle for good, I suggest coupling daily writing with accountability.

The easiest way to explain accountability is in relation to other realms of responsibility. There is a lot of accountability built in to teaching. The fact that there is an expectation for you to show up to class and be prepared to facilitate class is enough to make you prepare for class. Service is another realm that has built in accountability. If you are chairing a committee on campus, then your peers are depending on you to lead the group. That’s enough for you to prepare and send out meeting agendas and do the service work. However, for research and scholarship there is no built-in mechanism to give you the urge to get your writing done. Accountability is not inherently built-in for writing, so at times creating it may not come very easily.

To help myself in this process, I started an accountability group a few years ago with my peers in the College of Education called Agraphia. A group of eight faculty meet every other week to discuss our writing and research goals by asking each other three questions: What were your writing and research goals for the previous two weeks?; Did you meet your writing/research goals? If not what got in the way?; and What are your writing and research goals for the next two weeks? You can also sign up for an accountability buddy through NCFDD if you’d like to do something similar on a personal level.

Experimenting with one of more of these strategies can definitely help jumpstart your summer writing. Have a wonderful and productive summer and happy writing!

Joy Gaston Gayles is the Higher Education program coordinator and professor in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Human Development in the College of Education. She can be reached at

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