I’m Gonna Get ALL My Manuscripts Written This Summer!
I say it every year, and it never happens. Soon enough, September brings its chilly mornings and I think, dang it, I shoulda sat on my porch and written at 5pm every day instead of sitting in the same blissful location having a mojito with my neighbours. And then I think, no way, those are some good times. So...
All the manuscripts did not get submitted in August. However, I do have a series of papers in a variety of stages, because I kept moving forward over the summer. Some are almost done, some are kinda sorta done (but not really), and others are shiny ideas that lure me away, just like my friend @LawProfBlawg described last week.
Now that we are about a month into school, momentum has arrived. So, too, have the colleagues who are loudmouthing that they have "a bunch of papers coming down the pike" (and I loathe that expression because I'm from Massachusetts, where everybody knows that the Pike is full of traffic and is expensive, so if my papers ever end up on the Pike, I'm totally screwed). Plus, its just an intimidation tactic, usually from people who really don't have anything "coming down the Pike" so I don't even listen to that nonsense.
When I first started my tenure stream position, I had a casual conversation with a very senior colleague (everyone was very senior to me at the time) about my plans for manuscript submissions. I can't remember if it was about grand plans for summer writing (all the things!) or still cranking through the submission process in fall. Either way, I was expecting that I'd hear that I needed to keep a writing log (a la Silvia, which definitely works for some people), create some fancyass spreadsheet to keep track of what I've written (or not), or go on some writing retreat that I couldn't afford.
Instead - and this quite literally changed my academic life - he said, "Finish what's closest to being finished." It was SO SIMPLE, yet so profound. I had maybe five papers that were in different stages of completion. The furthest from completion (that is, the newest!) had been my greatest interest, and I was desperate to work on it, because I wasn't bored with it (yet). However, I had one manuscript that was actually quite close to being done, and once I sat down to finish, didn't take nearly as long as I had expected.
The manuscript that was closest to being finished got submitted, and got published rather quickly (as academic publication goes). The deal is, these manuscripts that we feel bored writing were once our "shiny new manuscript". Further, they have merit. We have thought about them, gathered the data, analyzed it, did the lit review, and then feel "done". Except we're not.
The practice of finishing what is closest to being finished has never failed me. It's the simplest and most effective advice I've received in my career. Even post-tenure, I still follow this advice. When a revise and resubmit comes back, I drop everything I'm writing (obv I can't bail on teaching or service) to work on it, and when it's done, I get back to the paper that is closest to the submission door. Then I can get myself out my actual door for a hike in the Ontario Provincial Parks (my favourite is here) or that blissful mojito on the porch.