Currently I am between two possible writing projects for this course: a thesis chapter or a paper for publication. My research involves reconstructing environment and subsistence through the analysis of archaeological fish remains from various islands in the Kingdom of Tonga. I have been working with my supervisor to sort and identify ~10 000-15 000 skeletal elements. It has been a long yet enjoyable experience (even when most of my friends have told me that fish bone identification is something they would never want to do), however this past December my analysis has come to a temporary halt. At end of this week I have a meeting planned with my supervisor to go through the data extensively and identify patterns of taxonomic variability within and between sites. After this meeting I will have a better understanding of the path my research can take and the types of major questions I can actively explore in this project as well as my thesis.
At some point this year I would like to write an article suitable for publication. My goals are to provide a detailed report of the data collected thus far and discuss the various taxonomic patterns using an ecology-based approach. The current uncertainties are whether I have collected enough data to accurately discuss any patterns at all, and if I do I must be careful my report will not imitate or overlap too much with the article my supervisor is planning to write in the near future. Once again, these questions will (hopefully) be answered this Friday. With a copious amount of fish bone data at hand, I believe this writing option is feasible, and my intentions for this class are to produce this article.
On the other hand, I would be just as happy to compose a chapter of my thesis. Last semester I took two reading courses to research the historical background of my target region, and the various methodologies in zooarchaeology. The focus for my chapter would be on a description of the site context and a discussion of past regional studies. Dr. Roddick mentioned how writing or reading a background chapter can be a slightly unpleasant experience, but not if it is written effectively. The content can be presented in an engaging and appealing manner, as opposed to a simple descriptive outline. I will admit, I did not consider this approach as an option before now. If this is the project I choose to write, I plan to start my writing process by asking this question: “What story should this chapter tell?”. I hope this class can assist me with writing an effective narrative and encouraging myself to be actively interested in the reader.
I plan to complete 30 minutes (at times it may become 60 minutes)of free writing 5-6 days a week on this project and I have set some strict rules for myself. The process will involve 30 timed minutes to write on a specific section of my paper, and I will turn off my Wi-Fi and refuse to stop and search through my references. However, once time has progressed and I am closer to completing my first draft, I will have to be more flexible and cut that time period in half so that the first part is assigned to free writing and the remaining 15 minutes will allow for referencing and fine-tuning. Considering writer’s block affects me throughout the editing phase as well, I plan to conduct my editing process in the same manner with timed writing periods. This is so I can mimic that feeling of ‘crunch time’ and as soon as the timer stops, I must finish and wait until the next opportunity to finish my thoughts. By completing certain sections every day, I might avoid those dreaded days of endless hours trying to produce ideas yet failing to go anywhere. I am optimistic every 30 minute period will guide me a step further to accomplishing my goal, and I must maintain this positive outlook throughout the entire process.
My outline for writing is such:
5-6 Days a week: 30 minutes of free writing (no internet, no fact checking, no opportunities to pause/stop)
Up until January 20th: Brainstorm major ideas for thesis chapter and article
January 20th: Meeting with supervisor
January 27th: Create outline for paper
February 3rd: Read through references, conduct further research, create reference list
February 10th: Compose really rough first draft from daily writing sessions
February 19th- 25th: Reading week, give draft to a family member or friend (a non-academic) to comment on clarity
March 9th: Bring in first draft to class
March 23rd: Bring in second draft to class
March 24th- April 1st: Edit, edit, EDIT! And utilizing the help of a peer editor (or two)
March 30th: Create presentation of paper
April 6th: Presentation of final paper
After April 6th/end of term: Give paper to supervisor for comments and further editing
I believe I have provided myself with reasonable tasks and time to complete them. As with any other writing assignments, starting is the first battle, yet I will try my best not to grow weary during this time. My hope is that the implementation of 30 minutes of free writing each day will minimize the occurrences of writer’s block while simultaneously enhancing the fluidity of my writing. In addition, I am looking forward to the peer editing process which will be taking place later in the course. My goals are to commit to sharing all of my future work with at least one peer editor so that I may be more easily guided in the right direction.