Jason Ford

For academics, finding time to write can be difficult. So when history professor Anthony Grafton told an interviewer that he writes about 3,500 words every morning that he’s at his keyboard, academic jaws dropped. And soon, a writing challenge followed.

“I was inspired by Grafton’s near-Trollopian output,” wrote L.D. Burnett, a Ph.D. student at the University of Texas at Dallas, on the blog Saved by History. “So I decided to issue — or take up — a challenge. ‘I’ll race you,’ I said. ‘My dissertation v. your next project.’ To which (Grafton) said, ‘Go for it.’”

About four dozen academics had joined Burnett by mid-August, encouraging one another with friendly competitiveness by announcing their progress each day on a Facebook group called The #GraftonLine Challenge and on Twitter. 

Each day, Burnett looks forward to posting how much she has written and to hearing from others “with a higher word count, or a little humblebrag, or some tongue-in-cheek trash talk,” she said. Grafton has been chiming in, too: “Done writing for today: 1,700 new words, 2,500 revised, and three letters in German sent off. Time to read.”