Monday, March 28, 2011

Forcing Myself to Write

I'm just finishing up a book on how to write a lot. It's aptly titled, "How to Write a Lot", and it doesn't really provide any breathtakingly profound information, but it does say "hey, stop screwing around and start writing". The problem with scientific writing, compared to other forms of creative writing, is that it is dry and un-fun to do. Research is fun, writing about research is NOT fun.

One of the things I've gotten from this book is to commit to writing on a schedule. On the one hand this is easy, and I've set aside four hours a week for writing-and-writing-only. On the other hand, it can be difficult to tell people I can't do things because I'm writing, people just don't respect "writing time". Matt is very supportive, and encourages me to stick to the schedule. I'm willing to make concessions for things like going to the doctor, because I make those same concessions from other important things like work or class. Sometimes you can't get a better appointment, and you just need to suck it up. However, if I start making exceptions for everything else, there is little point to having a writing schedule at all.

This all started because I haven't been getting much of my own work done lately, and the things I have been getting done have been last minute and by the seat of my pants. I've set up boundaries, become less attached (emotionally) to teaching related things, and set aside time just for writing. It turns out I'm getting much more done.

Having said this, last week was a disaster for productivity. I made spring break (the week before) an actual break, and refused to do anything related to my teaching assistantship. I did do some of my own work which had been waiting on the back burner, and it was nice to have large blocks of time to do it. Of course, this meant that I had a lot of teaching things to take care of last week, so I'm not sure if I actually gained anything in the long run. Last week I also didn't stick to my writing schedule, but I wrote some this weekend to try to make up for it.

My current writing project is getting my "necessary professional documents" in order: CV, statement of research interests, etc. My CV is all up to date, and I have a long version as well as an abbreviated version. This week I am working on my research statement. This is basically a short document which discusses my research interests, what I have done in the past, what I am currently working on, and what my future research goals are. It is very boring, but I am trying my best to make it somewhat interesting.

Future writing projects will hopefully be a little more interesting and be geared toward publications, and not housekeeping. Baby steps... we'll see if this schedule business has any merit to it.


  1. I am going through the same problems. I haven't been keeping up with posts, and I've noticed that I've fallen out of "the loop" as far as other people in the industry. Scheduled, little bits of writing instead of trying to get a ton done all in one sitting is a much better way to go.

  2. So true! My favorite part of the book I read was about how "writing when you're in the mood" doesn't really work. I mean if you think about it, how has that strategy ever really panned out for anyone? It doesn't. I'm never in the mood to write a grant proposal. Ever.