Five Tips for Achieving Your Summer Writing Goals

June 2, 2016

Most graduate students have ambitious summer writing goals. If you are one of them, here are five tips to help you be successful in meeting those goals.

1. Find a daily time to write. This means putting words on paper. You also need time to read and do research, but you should schedule time to actually write. Whether it means brainstorming ideas for fellowship applications, outlining, or editing, you should touch your writing every day.

  • Put this daily appointment into your calendar. It is amazing how much you can get done in even a small amount daily writing. I completed my dissertation proposal by scheduling a half hour to write every day early in the morning
  • Reflect on your most productive time for writing. This might be early in the morning or late at night. If you have children or other responsibilities, this might be right before or right after you go to work.

2. Find a place to write. For some people, this might be in a noisy coffee shop and for others, it might be at a desk at home.

3. Have a routine.

  • Reflect on what helps you write. You might be more productive after a cup of tea, a walk around a block, talking to a fellow graduate student, or reading a little of your favorite theorist. Build it into your routine.
  • Reflect on what distracts you from writing. This might be your phone, your email, or dirty dishes in the sink. Consider how you can reduce the possibility of being distracted; you might want to turn off your phone for a half hour. My writing would often get sidetracked when I began chasing down definitions of terms; I would begin wondering what so and so might have said about a certain term and soon I would be reading articles rather than writing. I began turning off the internet during my writing appointment so that I would not even be tempted to look up articles.
  • You may want to set a timer and force yourself to stay in the chair for that amount of time. Or you can require yourself to write a certain number of words each day, even if they are not high quality.

4. Set realistic goals. Figure out what you need to do and the time in which you need to do it. You will not complete a fellowship application in a week. Break down your tasks into the component parts and be realistic about how long each will take.

5. Create accountability. This might mean updating your advisor on your progress every two weeks, or, even better forming writing partnerships or groups. Writing groups can take many forms. You can simply agree to email two or three people at the beginning of the week with goals for the week and a report on your progress for the previous week. Or you can get together with a few people once a month to read each other’s writing. However you do it, having some accountability will help tremendously in achieving your writing goals.

Writing is hard. It is often painfully hard. But like a long run or a big hike, it is also tremendously rewarding. Good luck!

The GradFunding Newsletter is a service of the University of Arizona Graduate College, Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement. You may use this article but please acknowledge Shelley Hawthorne Smith and the University of Arizona Graduate College Office of Fellowships and Community Engagement.
To subscribe or unsubscribe to the newsletter, send an email to (link sends e-mail) with "subscribe (or unsubscribe) gradfunding FirstName LastName" in the subject line. You may send opportunities for posting or questions to address to the newsletter editor, Shelley Hawthorne Smith (