As our blog competition this month is on writing tips, I thought I’d share some of my own. I definitely prefer doing lots of interesting reading to the focused practice of writing, but after a couple of years of doing my PhD, I’ve found some ways to manage my own habits. Here are a few:
- Read something that you find stimulating: Often, to start me off in the morning, I’ll make myself a cup of coffee, sit down at my desk, and then read a short-ish introduction or chapter of something that might spark off some ideas. For example, I may well find an essay from something else I’ve been reading, or read a short piece of criticism by one author about another. This means that my mind starts working and I can begin to think about my own ideas indirectly through someone else’s.
- Just start writing, even if it isn’t very good: Sometimes, I’ll just throw some stuff down on the page so the blank space seems less intimidating. I try not to be judgmental of myself as I’m doing this: the main goal is to start writing and see where it takes you. I’ve often had really good ideas as I’m typing.
- Think about writing as something that you can get into, or ‘sink’ into, not as something you can do instantaneously: The metaphor I think of with writing is going under water. If I use either of the tips above, I find I can help myself get into a good rhythm where I am fully concentrating on my writing and my ideas. When I come to a natural end or feel myself needing a break, I emerge from this concentrated state, or being ‘underwater’ to continue the metaphor, and make sure to give myself a good break by going for a walk or getting a bit of fresh air. Once you become more familiar with the things that you need to help you get into this state, it will be easier (though not easy) to get into it.
- Remember that writing will be difficult because you are wrestling with complex and difficult ideas: There are some aspects of writing that should be difficult because thinking critically about something in depth is, by its very nature, not easy. If you are struggling to put words on the page, then try to think about what you are trying to express, and think about how you can clarify the idea for yourself. Re-read any theory you may be using, or go back to the text you are analyzing; your ideas may become clearer or re-emerge more fully.
Do you have some good writing tips or good writing habits you’d like to share? A good website or procrastination tool? Then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll be entered into our prize draw to be in with a chance of winning 25% SAGE books, a SAGE goodie bag, and a £10 Amazon voucher or book token!