Do you recognize yourself in this?
I find reading and research comfortable. The writing scares me. (Not note-taking, obviously.) I tell myself I need to read more.
— Liana Silva (@literarychica) March 16, 2011
This is what inspires my work: smart people who are finding it difficult to do the thing they do.
You have something to contribute but in order to do that you need to write.
Writing is a habit
Like any habit, you can develop it.
- Designate a space to write in. Make it comfortable & inspiring.
- Designate a time to write.
- Do the same things before you write.
At first, it will feel forced, uncomfortable. But there will be a point where it will become more automatic. You can start with just 15 minutes/day.
The fact that it is 8 a.m., you’ve finished your breakfast and have a fresh cup of coffee will start to trigger getting up and going to your writing space and writing. (Note: your time and pre-writing activities may differ from those shown
on the box in this example.)
Until getting up and going to your designated writing space at your designated time feels like the normal and obvious thing to do, your goal is to develop a habit of writing.
Don’t worry about what you write. Just write.
What time of day?
You don’t need lots of time, you need good quality time. When do you work best? Are you writing in that time slot? Why not? Charlie Gilkey has a free tool for figuring out your most productive time. Scroll down to “Productivity Heat Map”.) You might want to (re)read this post on finding time for writing.
If writing at the same time every day and/or finding good quality time to write seems like a unicorn, then find a way to make it possible to write in time that appears. One academic mom I know keeps a notebook in her bag and grabs time at the park while her kids are playing, for example.
Your pre-writing activities
The things that lead to writing should be warm up activities.
- eat something healthy
- make coffee/tea, pour yourself a glass of water
- do yoga (even 3 poses)
- do some stretches
- go for a run/walk
- put on your writing costume (you get to decide what that is: feather boa anyone?)
Finding it hard to protect your writing time?
You are not alone. It’s like exercise. Some people can make a commitment to exercise, figure out what they’ll do, and do it regularly at home, by themselves. Personally, if I don’t sign up for a class, I don’t do it. The Academic Writing Studio is like a yoga studio for academic writers: A Meeting With Your Writing provides synchronous classes to help you keep your commitment to write regularly, other resources help you set priorities and boundaries so writing fits into your schedule, and electronic forums provide community support. Join us.
This series of posts originally published in March 2011. Edited Jan 26, 2017.