Rochelle (Shelley) Rodrigo

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My Name is Shelley Rodrigo and I’m a Binge Writer

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Medium shot of me talking at a podium. My Name is Shelley and I’m a Binge Writer; I have been regularly writing for a little over two months.

My binge writing started as most binge writers do, I hated writing. In high school and undergraduate I waited until the last minute to complete writing assignments. In typical fashion I stayed up late the night, or the few nights before, major assignments were do. I still, however, did well enough to graduate high school as valedictorian and go to college.

In college I started to feel the negative affects of binge writing; I earned a C- and C in my first year composition sequence. Because of those grades, my self confidence as a writer was shot.  I’ll never forget talking to my honors thesis advisor after she read the first draft of my honors thesis (which, of course I took only a week to complete); she told me I had to start over. At least I waited to leave her office before I cried. And even though I graduated with my BA in English, with honors, and I knew I was planning to go to graduate school, my self confidence as a writer was extremely low.

I turned down graduate school offers that wanted me to teach writing the first year. How could I teach writing if I was a bad writer? In graduate school I continued to binge write, I would submit some end-of-course papers with letters to the instructor with “if I had more time, I would do…” explanations.

I became a functional Binge Writer, I got articles and book chapters published, co-edited a book, co-authored a textbook, and finished a dissertation all as a Binge Writer. Obviously I could not do any of these project the night before; however, I did not complete them by regularly writing. Instead, I would go on writing benders, whole or multiple day, and get a bunch of work done at once. Although those were effective, they were not efficient. I would spent large chunks of time getting back into the project before I was able to actually produce writing.

My dissertation advisor and one of my mentors, Duane Roen, constantly told me to “write a little bit every day.” Not until I was in a position that made my job dependent on writing did I start to really hear that advise. And it still took other prompting. I knew I needed to carve out time to regularly write and make that time my highest priority; but I didn’t do that either. It wasn’t until I read Paul Silva’s How to Write a Lot and started tracking my regular writing that I finally started to write regularly. Like anyone who diets, I fall off the bandwagon; and all I can do is dust myself off and get back on. Besides using a spreadsheet to track my writing, I also appreciated Silva’s reminder that you can not reward the completion of a writing project with no writing (thank gosh he didn’t say I couldn’t reward myself with something yummy!). And as you can see from my earlier reflection, regularly writing has made me regularly productive.

Let’s be honest, two months of regular writing is not a long time. I look forward to repeating this “speech” in two years. I know I’ll fall off the bandwagon a few more times; however, as long as I immediately get back on the wagon never leaves me in the dust (for example, if I don’t write a week day, I usually do make up the day on the weekend; but, the missed weekday still counts as a miss in my spreadsheet).

I’m writing this post as an introduction to a Five Week Regularly Writing Challenge for my graduate students and I hope that a few will join me with their “hello I’m a Binge Writer posts in the next 30 or 60 days.”

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