I closed AcWriMo with a trip to Oxford. It’s necessary for what I’m writing because the original archaeological reports for some sites are from the 1920s or earlier. There were very few Archaeology departments in the country at the time, so there’s good reason why some of these reports are not widely published by modern standards.
They also have some useful books like the BTCGI, Bibliografia topografica della colonizzazione greca in Italia e nelle isole tirreniche. This is a collection reports about work done in Italy. The title says it’s about Greek sites, but it takes in native sites like Cefalù too. The value of the books is the bibliography at the end that lists the papers that discuss a site. The series is a massive project and the early volumes are more out of date than the later volumes, but they remain a valuable short-cut to find out where the original excavation reports are.
I also hoped to be able to download some papers. The National Library of Wales gives free access to a large chunk of JSTOR if you live in Wales. It means I don’t have to travel across the country to access it. However, not all papers are accessible. The publishers don’t mind me reading the papers for free, just that I have to be in a magical place to do so. I discovered that in one case neither the print nor electronic versions of a recent book chapter were accessible in Oxford. If your electronic papers are not accessible in one of the richest universities in the world, I think it’s time to ask if what you’re doing with them really is publishing. If I’d had the sense to look up the book on WorldCat, I would have seen the closest physical copy is in Mainz.
It meant the day ended with a slight failure, and in some ways that’s true for the month. I didn’t complete the goal I’d set for myself. However, in not meeting that goal I found something that will vastly improve the next paper I write — so it’s a useful upbeat failure.
Slightly more worrying is that I wasn’t able to create a routine to help build a writing habit. Nothing I tried worked with that. I sat down to try the Pomodoro technique. This is where you work for 25 minutes and take a five minute break. I could only get 20 minutes into that before I had to deal with a building problem. I’ve also been disrupted by medical news saying that I’m not quite as well as I thought. It turns out there’s ongoing issues with the cancer. They’re not at all life-threatening, but it’s more disruption. For example, I’m the only person I know who’s been given a routine to work through to prepare for blood test. It’s not arduous, but it takes time. Living in the Cambrian Mountains means that medical trips to remote places like Cardiff take hours, effectively wrecking the whole day for work. These sound like good reasons, but the building will be finished soon and the next problem will be visiting relatives. I’ll find out if these issues really were reasons or just excuses.
Looking at the month as a whole I’m much more positive, in contrast to many bloggers. There is a healthy boost to certain bloggers during *WriMo where they can complain about it. There is an argument that quantity is to the detriment of quality and proving this there was an abundance of quantity in negative blog posts. I think that misses the point, *WriMo is not simply about quantity, there’s a communal element at the same time. This goes double for AcWriMo because, realistically every month should be AcWriMo. What the event does is give an entry point to reading about experiences and sharing tips. The #AcWriMo streams on Twitter and Google+ have both been very helpful for that.
If there is a habit then it’s the process of reflecting on writing that’s helpful. Being aware of how much I hate some parts of writing has helped me work out what I particularly don’t like — and that’s the first step to fixing the problem. I am wondering about setting up a writing journal on Penzu.
The final measure is pretty easy. Yes, I’ve written more than I would have without taking part, but that doesn’t matter. From working through a problem in writing may next piece will be written better, but that doesn’t matter either. The one measure that matters is that I’m happier for having taken part in the event. That’s what matters.
I’ll also be spending a bit more time reading PhD2Published, where AcWriMo started.
See also Donna Maria Alexander’s post To Conclude: Academic Writing Month and Me.