Gillie Bolton author of Inspirational Writing for Academic Publication gives us some practical and motivational advice.
- Make a timetable and stick to it. Make firm diary commitments (even for sessions as short as 10 minutes) for writing time, and treat them as if they are UNCANCELLABLE meetings. Turn off email completely; switch phone and iPad right off.
- Start writing using the 6 minute dumpª. And CARRY STRAIGHT ON writing. Don’t do any of the other million and one things which take me away from writing. Use the time as if it were a train journey: I have to finish this section by the time the train pulls into Paddington Station (this is how I’ve written this blog post).
- If I get the wobbles, I send my Internal Saboteur back to hell, and invite in my Internal Brilliant Academic Writing Adviser to tell me, amongst other things: ‘You Can Do It!’
- Set myself up for my next session by leaving this writing part way through a section. Either I don’t rush to complete this one, so I can begin satisfactorily by doing so next time, or push myself to write at least notes beginning the next section. This way I never start with that terrifying thing to any writer: The Blank Sheet.
- Don’t allow myself to edit (Phase 3) too soon: focussing on grammar etc when I should be thinking of ideas or structure, is a killer.
- Instead of wasting time trying to work out a research or computer skill – I make an appointment with someone who can teach me (University Library; Apple do brilliant lessons in how to use the Mac; etc).
- When I am really STUCK, I:
- Make a date with a trusted, confidential peer to discuss it with.
- Try going somewhere else to write (cafe / park / bed / …).
- Write a letter to the kindest wisest person I can possibly imagine, asking their advice on my writing. And write their reply myself. This is my Internal Brilliant Academic Writer, or my Internal Mentor. I often ask their advice: they are ALWAYS available.
- Change my type of writing for a while. to 6 minute writing dumpª for example.
a. 6 Minute Dump:
I take pen and paper (seems better for emergencies than keyboard), and scribble for at least 6 minutes whatever is in my head, telling myself NO-ONE NEED EVER READ THIS. I might write anything: our minds do hop about when we let them. If I’m blocked, just the change of focus can unblock, or perhaps I can write about what the block is and explore what to do about it. Sometimes I frantically write about something completely different: clearing out whatever is on my mind (birthday present / a huge row with my partner / … .). Then I reread what I’ve just written and reflect on it in writing.
Now I am much better focussed for academic writing.