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Academic Coaching & Writing

IX. An Academic, Writing: Creating Sacred Writing Time

Jan 29, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

In my second meeting with my Coach, I reflected on how my teaching responsibilities crept into (ok, hijacked) my writing time. I maintain a heavy teaching load, and this semester I agreed to teach a new course. The learning curve for this course is steep. I underestimated just how steep it would be. I've never been particularly good at organizing my time, for either my writing or my teaching. I tend to underestimate how much time I will need to perform certain tasks. I am also realizing that my tasks are not well-defined. My to-do list looks like it could belong to any academic:

  1. Prepare for class
  2. Write

Sometimes I reverse the order. But more often than not, my teaching responsibilities take priority over everything else in my life. I don't set very good boundaries for myself when it comes to my role as an educator. Because writing is typically not my first priority, I find myself setting it aside to deal with other pressing issues. Every email from a student must be answered immediately. Every problem that comes up must be solved quickly.

My coach decided that it was time to explore why I don’t value my writing time.

I don't have to write this book. I am paid to teach, not to write or produce research. So why, then, do I want to write a book? I have been thinking and researching for the book, directly or indirectly for a long time. The idea has grown inside of me and has stayed with me. I want to write this book for myself. Although it may be an important contribution to the literature, at the end of the day, I need to write this book for self-fulfillment.

This book, I told my coach, is like my baby.

Then why, she responded, don't you allow yourself the time you need to take care of your baby?

Sacred Writing Time

I know intellectually that it is important to set aside time daily to write. As soon as my coach called it sacred time to be with my project, I realized one of the reasons I was so hesitant to treat it as such: I feel guilty. I am ultimately writing the book for very selfish reasons. How can I afford myself the luxury of time to write a book that is not a requirement of my current career?

This is what I wrote in my notes from the coaching meeting: it's ok to take the time to work on the book and to work on my writing.

I'm beginning to see the time I set aside to write as sacred time, as time that (barring very real and necessary interruptions) I will guard and keep for myself and my written words. This week I have scheduled a long lunch break for myself in the middle of the day so that I can deal with any issues that arise from my students or my classroom. And because I have planned a limited amount of time, I will force myself to be organized with my to-do list of teaching preparation tasks.

Ultimately, the skills I learn to help me become a better writer will help me become a better teacher.

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