Along with hundreds of tweeps, I recently participated in AcWriMo, a month-long writing productivity drive organized by Charlotte Frost over at PhD2Published.  The basic idea is that you publicly commit to writing towards whatever “crazy goal” you set in a month, and that crowd pressure/encouragement keeps you on track
AcWriMo fit perfectly with a deadline I had for a revise/resubmit on an article about feminist manifestos.  I decided to combine the concept with my current practice of writing in public.  Ultimately I uploaded 25 different versions of the article in progress to google drive.  At times I revised in google docs, but the glitches in the interface made that impractical in the long term.   

I tweeted 36 times about the project, using a bitly link to the google doc, which tells me that around 100 people accessed the document by clicking on it, although I can’t track actual page views so I have no idea if people returned after the initial link.  I submitted, on time, my revised essay of 5000 words 17 endnotes, and 70 works cited. 

Although I had hoped to get the sort of feedback one gets from a writing group from tweeps, that sort of engagement did not happen.

ProfessMoravec #writinginpublic lots of fun, 100 or so readers of revision in progress but no comments or tweets so far.

I suppose that isn’t surprising as that tasks involves a substantial time commitment for someone you know only as an avatar on a screen.  As both @noeljackson and @miriamkp noted, even though fascinated by topics, they simply don’t have the time to devote to lengthy engagement.

@noeljackson‪@ProfessMoravec ‪@miriamkp Think that a lot of would be readers/engagers (like me) are suffering from a serious time deficit now  

‪@miriamkp‪@ProfessMoravec ‪@noeljackson Yikes, I can imagine! They are probably just admiring your spirit of adventure!  

#professmoravec ‪#tweets/blogs I read & never respond 2 is huge, but cld lead to paranoia, esp 4 newer scholars ‪#fulldisclosure  

What I received, in abundance, was a huge amount of encouragement. 

‪@ccandhealth‪@ProfessMoravecthe last “miles” are often the hardest. You can do it! ‪#acwrimo 

 Charlotte must have devoted a huge time to facilitating the success of #AcWriMo as she frequently responded with kind words to persevere.

 ‪@PhD2Published‪@ProfessMoravecThanks for sharing your achievements. Great motivation for the rest of us! ‪#acquire

My twitter friend @triciamatthew cheered me on when I asked if people outside history realized what you get when you ask a historian to “prove something” (70 works cited in a 20 page paper to be precise, with 1000 words in endnotes on a 5000 word article).

M.M.‪@ProfessMoravecI wonder if lit people know you never ask a historian to “prove it.” I’ve got 42 works cited in a 19 page article & I’m not done 

tricia matthew‪@triciamatthew‪@ProfessMoravecIt’s like a tic of some sort. I started reading your draft and had to stop myself from saying…prove it!  

‪@triciamatthewBAA HAA HAA. I mean honestly how do I “prove” that historians use H not L without citing ummm all of them 🙂  

@ProfessMoravec Ignore us. It’s just a massive case of projecting & wishing we were: historians, sociologists, philosophers, psychoanalysts. 

 ‪@triciamatthewand historians are projecting our massive imposter syndrome IMHO GOD FORBID someone suggest you are lacking

 @monicalmercadoprovided more love of the footnote from a sister historian

There is nothing I love more than a good footnote! MT: ‪@ProfessMoravec: I’ve got 42 works cited in a 19 page article & I’m not done

‪@ProfessMoravecThink it’s funny, in a history paper, how many sources one can summon. Makes you realize just how much reading you’ve done.

‪@literarychica saved my ass by helping me to figure out MLA parenthetical citation format for a quote in an essay

A query about neologisms and manifestos resulted in a fascinating game of what I called twitter telephone that I storified. 

Perhaps the most unexpected aspect of writing in public was the kudos I received for doing it. 

‪@literarychicaLove that ‪@ProfessMoravec is writing & revising in real time on a public Google doc. Made me think about possibilities 4 my own work.

 @miriamkp shared the project with her graduate students, and as she teaches at my alma mater, that was particularly gratifying.

 ‪@miriamkp‪@professmoravecAre you still writing an article as a public Google doc? Wanted to show my students, since we’re talking about OA this week!  

‪@miriamkpSpeaking of openness, ‪@professmoravec is boldly sharing her article revision-in-progress as a Google doc! ‪ …‪#dh201

She and I, along with @noeljackson engaged in a brief conversation about the relative merits of exposing the process of work we do as academic to scrutiny when so much emphasis is placed on final product.  I noted that I’m in a relatively privileged position, already attaining tenure, and working from a fairly solid, albeit small, academic reputation.  Still there were times when I’d open my google doc to revise only to see 18 anonymous squares.  Since no one left any comments at all, I sometimes felt the paranoia creeping in.  Did they all hate it? Or worse, find it irrelevant or boring? 

ProfessMoravec Yikes when #writinginpublic gets scary 8 people reading my revision right now as I work on it 

 ProfessMoravec @noeljackson @miriamkp it is super odd to be revising as you see viewers come on then leave esp. as almost no one comments!

Overall I’m still committed to writing in public.  I’m working on my book using this process and the feedback I get has been great.  However, even better, several thousand people have already looked at the work before it is published.  I’ve also realized that my initial goal of the virtual writing group is not feasible.  Even the very large projects like Writing History in the Digital Age that use crowdsourced peer review and comments garner relatively few comments.