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Finding or Making: An Approach to Time and Writing

July 26, 2010

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Over the weekend, my daughter wanted to know how I found time to blog.

The simple answer: I make time to write. Many of my posts arise from something I read or hear in the course of my life. As I consider such things, I often write about them to condense and organize my thoughts. Cleaning up such musings and adding an illustration takes an additional 10 or 15 minutes from my day – time I likely would have wasted playing solitaire or hangman, given half a chance.

Of course, I get the same questions from other faculty. Given the clinical and administrative tasks I perform for pay, how do I find the time to generate a manuscript or a grant or even a tweet? The answer is the same – I make writing a priority.

Successful writers share many characteristics. Most set aside time each day or so to address their writing. Some authors include writing preparation in this time, while others see it solely as pen-to-paper (pixel to screen?) time. Prolific writers also use every minute, even those few that would not seem profitable for an activity.  I get some of my best post ideas while awaiting the elevator or mindlessly walking the treadmill. Obviously, I cannot address them at that moment, but I may send a pithy 140-character message out to the twitterverse, or make myself a note.  Eventually my mind will get the chance to wander that neural pathway again, perhaps resulting in a blog post or other work.

The written word is the coin of the realm in academia. Faculty who wish to get ahead will have to write something, whether that output consists of peer-reviewed manuscripts, books, patient brochures, or other pithy white papers. Even authoring web pages can count for this particular endeavor, if documented sufficiently. Finding Making time to write is so important to our faculty that we have an annual workshop about writing (summarized in more detail here).

My daughter will never be in academic medicine. Her chosen path in public relations diverges considerably from the road her parents selected. Right now, she must complete one more semester of coursework. She also holds down two part-time jobs and has the social life a 22-year-old should have. Given her career choice, she should blog a bit more. But then, I’m an old married woman who loves to write.

Any other tips to make the words roll off the fingertips? I am always looking for new ways to get those documents documented!

  1. My personal experience is of writing as a biological necessity. I simply cannot not write, anymore than I could not breathe, eat, sleep, etc. I can’t imagine having to “make time” to write.

    • There are a few documents that have languished on my desktop because I really didn’t want to write them. Generally I sack up and get those done, then let someone else worry about them.
      Things I want to write, stories I want to tell? Those get done. I usually don’t need to set aside time for writing- the problem is others keep calling me to see patients!

  2. The minute I see an exciting study published, a clock starts ticking in my head and until I get my thoughts down on paper I feel agitated, and dare I say incomplete (<—did I really say that?). I like your tip about twittering first to at least get a thought out there.

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