The Lunchtime Writer, Part Seven: Writing Other Things

The other day I had a question from a work friend who has been reading this series: “do you apply this to your academic writing too?”

Which was unexpectedly revealing. Because, on one level, I don’t. As part of my job, I have to write papers, course outlines, funding applications, and so forth. But I don’t tend to approach it thinking “I’ll do 500 words a day.”

And yet, on another level, I do. The way I get a project done, especially if it’s a big scary one like a monograph, is to tackle it in small chunks, every day. Not “I’ll write 500 words” necessarily, but “I’ll get down to the end of the page,” or “I’ll make notes on one article every day for the next week.” It’s also certainly true that I usually do at least a little academic writing every weekday, though I’ll only do it at weekends if I’m up against an unanticipated deadline.

Which is, however, where the first significant difference applies. When I’m writing fiction, the deadlines are usually self-imposed– or, if they’re imposed from outside, they’re at least ones I’ve got enough advance notice on that I can work towards them. In academic writing, I’m almost always writing to a deadline, and sometimes it’s the sort of deadline that requires more than 500 words a day to complete.

The other significant difference is that my work writing is often a collaboration with other people. This means you have to take other people’s schedules and writing styles into account, and that sometimes doesn’t work with a 500-word-a-day habit.

So I would say that, while the philosophy of Lunchtime Writing can help you write non-fiction or other types of work writing, one generally has to be flexible with its actual execution, and it may need a little more in the way of advance planning than regular Lunchtime Writing.

And I can definitely confirm that, if you’re struggling to begin a piece of work or find that you keep putting it off, that approaching it as if it were Lunchtime Writing is a good way to start and to see it through to completion.