How to make your writing Dino-mite!

I’m about to get on the ride known as the PhD.

It’s a bit like going through the large wooden gates of Jurassic Park.

You’re knowingly entering a world where things may get a bit hairy. There’ll be running, screaming and a probably a few injuries along the way. Worst case scenario? You get swallowed whole. But stay close and listen to the experts and you’ll emerge bruised and battered – but alive.

a PhD thesis....?
a PhD thesis….?

Whether your thesis is a cupcake or a dragon (or a dinosaur theme park) the key is to write. I love to write. In the last 18 months I’ve written 7 articles. Three have already been published. What’s the problem you might well ask?? Well, it’s how I write.

Because it takes me hours – but more often days – to get through 500 words.

I end up writing late into the night, through the night, on weekends. I feel I need lots of time to get into the writing ‘zone’. And I edit. Constantly. Always looking for some kind of ‘perfection’. So I prioritise everything except writing during my working day and end up using lots of time outside of work to write and edit. And this is before I start the PhD…. eek.

I don’t think that anyone comes to a PhD without intellectual baggage. We’ve had ideas swimming about in our minds for ages. We’ve read articles and started to plan where we fit in the literature. We’ve had discussions with colleagues and research mentors about doctoral pathways. In my case, I’ve done all three. I’ve been working out which pathway is the best for me for nearly two years.  Fingers crossed (*waves hopefully at selection committee*) I’ll be officially starting a Professional Doctorate in September.

But it’s given me a lot of time to think about the way that I approach writing. And worry about it. And read about how the experts are avoiding being eaten – and trying their strategies out.

So last week, I re-read the fantastic article How to write 1000 words a day (and not go bat shit crazy) from The Thesis Whisperer, which is my go-to blog for all things PhD. Many months ago, my reaction to that piece was something along the lines of “that sounds great, but I’ll never be able do it”. Faced with an idea for an article and a looming deadline, it was time to give it a shot…

“Clever girl…”

So I did it!

From 8 – 12 June I wrote 1000 + words a day. During the working day! And without ignoring anything else that needed doing.

It was important to be smart about it. For example, for various reasons there was no point in trying to write in the afternoon. The morning would be best. So I set aside 2 hours every morning to write. I protected that time by turning off emails. Even if I started at 9am I would be finished by 11am and have the rest of the day to deal with any email correspondence. Some days I worked from home and those were my best days because I got up early and started straight away, breakfast next to me on the table. I was often finished by 10am and then had an odd feeling of not being quite sure what to do next. Old me would have sat and laboured over the text. New me got on with other work and went for a walk at lunchtime.

One day, I started at 8.30am-ish. My manuscript had reached 1894 words by 9.18am, and 2503 by 10.10am. Watching the word count get larger and larger was really encouraging.

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