This is what my spring break (yes, it’s early!) has looked like thus far: me, my computer, stacks of books, in the library. Yep, that’s right: Profs Gone Wild!

I’ve been joined in the library this week by a half-dozen or so intrepid colleagues from around campus. We’re all trying to write. We’re all trying to shift gears from our day-to-day semesterly grind to devote some solid, untinterrupted time to our research.

Unfortunately, being on this retreat has reminded me—oh halcyon days!— of what being on sabbatical was like. Fifteen months of doing almost nothing but research. While the reminder certainly made me nostalgic, this week I also realized why I have such a hard time doing research and writing while I am also teaching. And serving on committees. And all that day-to-day semesterly grind-y crap.

I realized this week that when I am writing, a switch flips in my brain that basically makes me useless for anything but writing. On Monday, I ended the day, satisfied with the 6 or so pages I wrote, and came home with a stack of books but no backpack. Which also meant, no laptop, no notebook, no notes. (Luckily, no one uses the library during spring break, so I recovered backpack, computer, notebook, and all the next morning.) Then, after deciding on Tuesday that I wasn’t satisfied with those pages after all, I started over again, wrote another 8 pages, and went to bed, satisfied but exhausted. And then sat up bolt upright at 3am with a Great Idea and decided to start over again … at 4:30 am. And aside from a few breaks, I’ve been at it since then. A good 11-hour day of writing. If your brain isn’t a bowl of overcooked noodles after than, I’m not sure what it is.

I can’t do this and actually teach anyone about anything. I can barely dress myself this week. Luckily Matt is a good sport about all this.

I am starting to suspect that the reason why I have only been able to write in fits and starts, during breaks—mostly during the summer—is because that is, in fact, the only way I am able to write. Lots of academic productivity coaches advocate writing every day, even if it is just 30 minutes. I tried and abandoned this experiment on sabbatical, and my experience this week confirmed again that this method just doesn’t work for me.

I would love to know if it works for you!


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