A series of questions, provocations, tools, possible solutions.
Has it grown or developed since you were last at university? Is it working for you? Is it painful?
Should you write for 8 hrs a day? How many words can you produce in a 2-4 hr block? Why is it so slow?
How do you plan? Is that a useful way to plan or does it feel like how a good student ‘should’ plan? Has it developed since you were writing 1500 word essays?
Do you edit? Do you edit for structure? Do you know what a sentence / paragraph / chapter should look like in a thesis? Do you delete things because you hate your writing or because you are improving it?
Do you ever just stare at the screen, watching the cursor blink?
Here are some ways to reflect on your own practice and find some answers that work for you, or work for now.
Plan for the week ahead. When are you most productive? Plan your 2-4 hrs productive writing then. Plan your 1 hour, or your 30 minutes. Plan your minimum viable action. The rest of the time, think, edit, chase references, swap your work with a writing buddy for feedback.
Or write in longer blocks over the weekend, take the next weekend off, come back and edit the weekend after.
There are no right answers here, only the answer that fits into your life.
How fast do you write? Is that fast enough? 500 good words a day is doable for most people (that’s 125 words an hour, or 2 words a minute). You might get up to 4000 words, tops, and these will be rougher and need extensive editing.
How to plan: try a narrative outline rather than a set of paragraph bullet points; or Kamler and Thomson’s Tiny Text
How to edit? Try a reverse outline.
You can’t edit a blank page, and editing is easier than producing words. Try getting some words down with generative writing.
Take breaks. Critical distance breaks. Or sleep on it.
Write well with others. Build an active writing community. Find yourself some readers! Are they good at feedback? What kind of feedback? e.g. ‘what is my argument?’ or ‘does this flow?’ or ‘do I have all the commas?’ What is your supervisor good at?
No shame, no guilt. Writing is a craft and your job. Write early and often (though not from day 1), draft multiple times as you clarify what you really mean.
Enjoy it! You could be doing literally any other job, but you are doing this one because you want to be here. Relish your chances to think and write and do good work.
Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash