Let’s acknowledge immediately that there are innumerable reasons why a writing project can get stalled: Maybe you took a break and lost momentum? Got irrevocably bored with the topic? Received critical feedback that you can’t get out of your mind? Therefore, we aren’t going to focus on the “why” part. Instead, regardless of why a project got cold, there are some common steps that help us get any project moving again. Today we will focus on steps addressing the underlying emotional and motivational issues. If we can clear those up, the rest will likely go smoothly.
Project management was originally developed for civil engineering, but even if you are writing a book instead of building a bridge, there are useful approaches to borrow that will improve your work flow. In a previous article, I described that within project management, tools can be roughly divided into “project definition tools” and “implementation tools.” Project definition tools are those that help you determine the scope, the tasks, and the budget (i.e., time), whereas implementation tools are those that help you conduct the work. Here, I focus on the latter, and present two tools from the lens of project management for writing.
Is project management really an essential writing process? While academic authors certainly recognize that writing requires many unique processes, each deserving attention, we rarely think beyond research, drafting, and revision. Yet, how well we manage projects can make or break the outcome. Case in point, if you miss the deadline for a special issue, it hardly matters how well your paper was aligned with the editor’s vision! Even when outcomes are not so dire, project management allows you to work in a calmer and less reactive manner, thus allowing for greater creativity.
Within formal project management, the tools can be roughly broken into “project definition tools” and “implementation tools.” In general, project definition tools are procedures that help you determine the scope, the tasks, the time frame, and the budget (i.e., time). Implementation tools are those that help you work smoothly. Here I focus on the former.
Have you ever heard a writer say – I’d really like to break my pesky writing habit? Likely not. Writers generally agree that writing habits work: Momentum drives progress. Each day becomes easier to overcome resistance and start producing. Additionally, with regular progress, planning becomes more predictable.
Surprisingly though, despite motivation, as writers, we often know markedly little about research in habit building. In lieu of research, unhelpful myths circulate, such as: If I could just write for 21 straight days, then my habit would be in place. Thankfully, there is worthwhile research on habit building, so let’s look at a few key principles and the framework underlying any habit.