How Do You Write a Book with 3 Hours Per Week?

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Omohundro Institute. In between planning sessions for the new "Doing History: To the Revolution!" series, I caught up with friends and colleagues, some of whom asked me whether I had any time to pursue original research and whether I was still working towards a book. I responded that "yes, I'm still working toward a book." Actually, I'm working toward two books. It seems the Articles of Confederation is a great topic to think through the same themes of identity, nation building, and conflict resolution that I worked on in my dissertation. My dissertation may, in fact, become a book after all.

As I spoke with my colleagues about my projects and excitedly told them about my plans one stopped me and asked: "how do you plan to write a book with only 3 hours a week to work on it?"

The question is a good one and one I'm pondering. How do I plan to finish a book and write a second one when the only time I can set aside consistently to work on them is 3-4 hours on Sunday mornings?

In graduate school, I asked my professors about how they write and about their workflows; communications and optimized workflows are topics that interest me. All of them said they find 1-4 hours each day to write. I still ask these questions of colleagues and the most prolific of them give the same answer.

I don't have 1-4 hours each day to devote to my written scholarship. Most days I find it difficult to set aside the hour I need to practice yoga or run--activities I find necessary for stress relief and mental health. Plus, the fact that I write about history in three different mediums is problematic. Each medium has it's own voice and ends. When I'm writing in audio my brain works differently. It's hard to think about writing and editing long form text when I'm actively engaged in audio work. Plus the voice I use in my audio work is not the same voice I would use in long form text.

I may not have 1-4 hours per day, but I do have Sunday mornings. Most Sundays I can work for at least 3 hours before my family gets up and moving for the day and before I have to turn to the work that exceeds the bounds of a sane work week. I also have occasional snippets of time on non-audio days where I can draft short blog posts like this one.

Can I write a book by writing it as a series of blog posts?

Some fiction authors do this, they write their books in the form of serialized blog posts. You see this most commonly on the social networking site wattpad. But would this serialized-blog-post model work for a history book?

Blog posts and history books have different voices. Blog posts tend to have an informal tone that makes use of contractions, casual word choice, and the first person. I've yet to read a scholarly history book with the tone and voice of blog writing.

Blog posts are also public. Publishers want authors to reserve their best content for their books so they can give readers a great reason to purchase them. If I write my books adopting a blog workflow, I won’t be able to publish everything I write on my blog.

Blog posts and history books also serve different functions. Blog posts tend to be short, one-offs where writers present and work through an idea. History books usually present multiple, complex ideas by working through long, detailed stories and examples. The intellectual production that goes into a book is much different from the intellectual production that goes into a blog post.

To get back to my colleague's question, I don't know how I plan to write a book, or two books, with 3 hours per week to work on them. I don't know how to turn short-form thinking into long-form thinking just yet. Still, it seems like I will need to adopt and adapt the blog-post method of book writing to my practice of history if I intend to write books. And as much as I love new media, I love the old. I want to write books about the BIG histories I think about and I want to contribute to the historiography in a meaningful way. I also know that I have what it takes to be a good "book historian" and I want to prove it.

Some day I will finish my books and they will be the books I want to write and they will be books that contribute. I just have to figure out how to get them done. I will solve this problem. In the meantime, with the exception of feeling like I should have written a book by now, I have no regrets about taking the career path less traveled. I have the privilege of increasing awareness about history and the work historians do by connecting historians to a public who is both interested in and thirsty for their work. Every day I get to help demonstrate why history matters and showcase the value of historians' work to society. And I get to do it all by writing history in and for new media.

Changing Habits, Essentialism, & Blogging

CalendarHave you ever wished you could create more time for the work you love to do? Over the last three months, I have been thinking about how I can create more time for writing.

In this post, you will discover the theory of essentialism and how I am applying it to create more time for projects that matter, like my book.


The Theory of Essentialism

I am an historian with many projects.

Several of the projects on my to-do list came about because I had an idea. Many others found their way onto my list because I had an unhealthy habit of saying “yes” to every great opportunity that came my way.

[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="0804137382" locale="us" height="500" src="" width="334"]Although I am capable of juggling many different projects, since the end of 2014 I have felt overwhelmed by my to-do list because many of the projects on it seemed to be keeping me from the one project I would really like to finish: My book.

This realization lead me to acquire and read Greg McKeown’s [simpleazon-link asin="0804137382" locale="us"]Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less[/simpleazon-link].

McKeown champions the benefits of “essentialism,” the idea that life isn’t about doing more in less time, but about doing more work that matters.

The key to essentialism lies in figuring out what you want to accomplish during your lifetime-- what do you want to be remembered for-- and only taking on work that aligns with your goals.

McKeown’s book prompted me to think about what it is I want to be remembered for and to look at whether the work on my plate would help me realize my life’s goal: I want to be remembered as a good person and historian.

For me, being a good historian means being a helpful colleague, improving society by making the past more relatable, and producing high-quality, original scholarship.

After I identified these larger goals, I looked at the projects on my to-do list and thought about whether they would help me fulfill my mission. I realized that at the moment only 2 projects matter: my podcast and book.

Since March, I have worked to clear all extraneous projects from my desk and I have said “no” to new opportunities because they don’t completely align with my goals.

My project list now consists of my book, podcast, and blog. However, I still need to make one more change to properly prioritize these projects.


Changing Habits

Best-PracticesI started Uncommonplace Book by producing one, quality post for Friday. I added a weekly digest of history-related events taking place in Boston on Mondays and rounded my posts off with a link roundup on Wednesdays.

This schedule has served me well. It gave me what I hoped it would: a healthy blogging habit. But after 2+ years of writing to this schedule, I need a change.

I need more freedom; freedom to post when I want as well as the freedom not to post when life gets too busy.


New Blogging Schedule

For now, I want to be free. I want to post without a rigid schedule.

Therefore, I am replacing my rigid blogging schedule with a more flexible one. I will now post on any day of the week I feel like and not post when I don’t have time. I am also discontinuing the event announcement post.

This more flexible blogging schedule does not mean that I will forsake Uncommonplace Book. I love sharing history and information and working out my ideas in this space.

I will still aim for at least one post per week, but by eliminating my rigid schedule and the time-consuming event announcement post, I feel like I will have a bit more time for my book as well as the flexibility not to post when I really don't have time. Conversely, I also feel like this flexible schedule gives me the freedom to post more often when I have ideas to work out or share. And, if I become too lax with my blogging, I can always impose another post schedule.

Thank you for your understanding and support.

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How do you prioritize your projects? How do you approach and maintain your blogging habit?


Build Your Platform with Freelance Writing: New Historian

New HistorianWould you like to extend the reach of your research and writing, build an audience for your blog, or increase your social media followers? If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you should write guest posts or articles for established blogs and publications.

Guest posts and articles will expose you and your work to new readers, some of whom will be interested in your research.

In this post, you will discover information about one digital publication that accepts freelance writing: New Historian.


About New Historian

New Historian is a relatively new digital publication, that has a large and growing readership; over 60,000 readers visited the New Historian website in December 2014. Readership should grow rapidly for this publication as several content curation websites like have added New Historian to their feeds.

The editors of New Historian present the electronic magazine as a clearing house for the most recent news about history. The publication covers news about all periods and areas of history and many of its articles highlight interdisciplinary collaborations between academic historians, public historians, archaeologists, and genealogists.

The publication strives to present articles that convey accurate historical information with an “unbiased, apolitical viewpoint."

New Historian offers some history editorials and book reviews, but the strength of the publication lies in its present-day news about history and historical discoveries.


How to Submit Your Article

If you have a new exhibit, an historical discovery, or other breaking news about history you should consider writing an article for New Historian.

New Historian LogoEditors are always looking for accounts of new developments in the field and pieces that provide insight into historical projects and the work of historians. New Historian readers enjoy articles that provide specific details more than stories with broad overviews.

Although New Historian editors are most interested in stories about new historical developments, they will consider articles that promote new books. Editor Glynn Forsythe recommends that pieces about new books focus on a particular aspect of the book.

Forsythe encourages all submissions to be between 500 and 2,000 words.

You can submit your articles and pitches to I recommend placing the words “ARTICLE PITCH” or "NEW SUBMISSION" in your subject line.



Presently, New Historian does not provide financial compensation to freelance writers for their work. However, they offer exposure. If the editors accept your article they will include a link to your book, blog, exhibit, podcast, or website with your post.



New Historian offers an opportunity to expand the reach of your historical work by exposing it (and you) to its large audience of history lovers. As the site publishes multiple articles per day, New Historian editors want and need content to publish.

Like many history publications, New Historian does not provide financial compensation for writers, but the publicity and exposure the site can provide your work may make writing an article well worth the effort.


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What publications do you write for to increase the reach of your work?


Coming Attractions: Book, Podcast, Blog, and Travel

Coming-SoonOver the next few months, Uncommonplace Book will feature posts about exciting projects, content, and trips. In this post you will find a sneak preview of upcoming blog posts as well as status updates on my 3 major projects.



For the last two months I have felt frustrated with my first chapter. I am just about finished with my second draft and until last week I felt like I had all the pieces of the story, but no idea about how they fit together.

Last week I had a eureka moment: Why should I begin my narrative with Henry Hudson?

The realization that I do not have to cover Hudson's voyage or the early days of the New Netherland and West India Companies has led me to decide that I will begin my chapter with an example from 1657. I will use this example to explore the community of Beverwyck and expound upon its earlier history when necessary.

Will this tactic work? I have no idea.

I am giving myself until Friday, August 15, 2014 to finish this draft. I need to be quick with this third draft because I have to move onto my second chapter by August 15, if I plan to finish 4 chapters by early February.  I have to have to submit a good draft of my fourth chapter to the Boston Early American History Seminar by February 3, 2015.



I have scheduled the first interviews for “Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History.” I begin recording on August 13.

I have requested 7 or 8 interviews and the responses have been positive. I have booked 5 interviews, I am coordinating dates with 2 guests.

My goal is to record most, if not all episodes on Wednesdays. A set recording day will allow me to better organize my workflow.

I am trying to book 1 guest per week as I would like to turn my twice monthly podcast into a weekly show by the beginning of 2015.

I am still looking for guests and plan to send out more e-mails once I have set the interview dates for the 3 guests I am coordinating with.

If you have a project related to early American history that you would like to promote to a non-specialized audience please checkout my “Be a Guest" information page. I would also be grateful if you would send the URL ( for that page to any historian you know who may like to be a guest.



Here’s a sneak peak at posts that will appear over the next several weeks.


Conference Recaps

I attended both the Conference on New York State History and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic conferences this summer.

You can expect to see 2 posts recapping panels from the CNYSH this month. The first post will summarize a panel about writing historical narratives. The second post will review a panel about life in the 17th-century Hudson River Valley.

I had the opportunity to attend several great panels at SHEAR. Topics include women and property, yellow fever, citizenship, relations between the United States and South America, early American contact with the Muslim world, and slavery and freedom. Recaps of these panels will appear over the next few months; they will be interspersed among other content.


TravelTravel Posts

I have 2 trips coming up that will likely result in multiple posts.

On August 20, I leave for 8 days in Zürich, Switzerland. Tim has to travel there for work and asked if I would like to accompany him. (A rhetorical question.)

Tim and I plan to tour Lucerne during the weekend and I will spend the rest of the week in Zürich visiting museums and cultural sites in the morning and working on my book revisions in the afternoon.

On September 13, Tim and I will embark on a cruise from Boston to Canada. Tim calls this trip a vacation, but I refer to it as “French and Indian War Tour 2014.”

The ship will stop in Maine, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Québec City, and Montreal. I am wicked excited to travel down the St. Lawrence River and imagine how some of my Albanians used the river to conduct the fur trade.

I am also excited as our stops will include a look at the first Acadian settlement areas along the Bay of Fundy; Fortress Louisbourg, famous in New England for its capture by the Yankees in 1744; and Le Château Frontenac and the Plains of Abraham in Québec City. The British won a decisive battle over the French at the Plains of Abraham in 1759; the victory led to the British acquisition of Canada at the end of the French and Indian War in 1763.


Thursday Posts

In February, I mentioned that I would experiment with posting on Thursdays. Since that initial post I have posted nearly every Thursday.

Over the next several weeks you may see fewer Thursday posts.

I intend to remain as regular as possible with these posts, but I am working out a new workflow. I need to figure out how I can best add my podcast project to my present workflow that consists of book, blog, and freelance project time. As you know, some weeks present more challenges than others and I may have to give something up in order to meet my larger book, blog, and podcast goals.

You will not miss out on any content if I find that I need to reduce the frequency of my Thursday posts. I maintain a list of every post idea I have and I take notes at every conference, seminar, and event I attend. You will still receive great content here at Uncommonplace Book.


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What projects, trips, new endeavors will you be working on over the upcoming weeks and months?


Refining My Niche

lightbulbDo you ever have the feeling that the left side of your brain doesn't know what the right side is doing? Or vise versa? I had this feeling a few weeks ago.


Aha Moment

After I wrote my "Getting to the Malleable PhD" post, it occurred to me what my personal narrative really is: I am an historian who strives to make well-researched history accessible.

The medium doesn't matter. I write, speak, and work with digital platforms.

My quest to make history accessible is why I am interested in how historians can write better, get published, use social media, and establish platforms.

We need to know how all of this works to produce accessible history projects.

My blog has always been about the practicalities of how to make history accessible, however I did not consciously realize this until my "Aha Moment" a few weeks ago.

It seems my left brain did not know what my right brain knew.


Human evolutionThe Evolution of My Niche

Blogging pundits will tell you that maintaining a blog is all about niche.

They advocate for as narrow a niche as possible because the more specific your interests the more likelihood you will find a dedicated group of readers.

Over the last 16 months or so, I have been widening my perception of my niche.

Initially, I blogged with an idea that I would write about being an independent historian, which is how I work.

A few months later, I started writing more about writing, so I thought I was writing for historians and non-historian writers.

Now I realize that my writing and interests have always been about history how to make it more accessible. That is the real reason why I write this blog.

This means I write for you, someone who is also interested in history and how to make it more accessible.



My realization won't change the types of posts I write, but it has helped me write more focused posts.

I hope that my realization will help you too.

I hope it will encourage you to think more about why you research, write, and present history.

These are fun and important ideas to think about.


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What is your niche/personal narrative? How do all of your interests connect?