Academic Accountability – or how much have you written today?


So… you want to write more? Missing a bit of motivation? Let’s face it – you are not alone. I recently mentioned briefly initiatives such as #acrimo … but how can you keep track and your writing beyond an initiative that is lasting a month?

One possibility is to make yourself more accountable by tracking, either privately or publicly, the progress you are making in terms of words written. And, as you are not alone – you could, of course, always join a virtual community to help you along.

There are a number of paid websites out there that will get you “on the writing track”. Let’s face it – it is probably money wasted. Because, really, why would you need a writing “coach” to get you writing when you can do it yourself (any experiences to the contrary, feel free to comment). So here are a few suggestions how to do it yourself:

If you just want to track your writing privately you could, of course, simply write the number of words each day in your calendar. A slightly more “high tech” option would be to use a spreadsheet – at least can get it to print graphs. In that case, all you need is a simple sheet, with dates in one column and number of words in the other.

If you want to have some support from others, maybe head over to Jenn’s Studious Life blog. Jenn has started the public Academic Accountability initiative, where you can join a list of other academics sharing their goals and writing successes via Google Docs and Twitter. To sign up, simply add your name and Twitter handle to this document – and complete your word count once a day. You can read more about this initiative here and here. You can also follow #Acwri on Twitter for more support via that social platform.

Another mostly private, but potentially public way of keeping track of your writing is the excellent – and free WriterDB. It is not really a community, but rather a database that allows you to track your papers. Be aware it is originally for non-academic writers – but it is easily adopted for academic purposes.

After joining, simply create a “title” for each of your outputs. They also have a way of tracking submissions later if you fancy – so you can actually use it as a one stop shop to keep track where all your papers have gone.
After setting up your account, and created a title (or many, depending on how many projects you are working) all you have to do is to update the wordcount when you are finished working on one of your projects. Note: WriterDB wants you to put in the total wordcount – not the amount of words you have written that day.

The neat thing is that afterwards, you can create some cool graphs. They can show all of your writing (for all projects) or just for a particular project, track the progress towards a certain word count etc etc… You can keep those graphs private and just enjoy playing with them after a long day writing – or if you are in the mood, share them, for example on your blog or via twitter. For example, like this:

Word counts

Wordcount graph
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With all those tools it should really be a breeze to get writing more…. and the next time someone says “oh but what have you done?”… you can even show them an impressive graph!

Although… the graph is clearly only reflecting words written. So, for instance, when you are editing previously written material, the graph does not reflect that (and in fact, may set you back, if you are cutting out possibly redundant written representations of utterances with a meaning cognitively attached words.

What do you think? Do you have any other tips how to write more, more, more and more… please share them via the comments!

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