How to keep your writing on track

Academics often wear many hats, both professional and personal. This makes the task of writing all the more difficult. Finding the time and focus to write, among the many obligations and responsibilities we face, is a challenge. Here are a few tips to keep you on track with your writing goals and deadlines:

  • Keep a writing journal and have it with you at all times. Jot down ideas, thoughts, and insights as they come to you throughout the day. Qualitative researchers are familiar with the use of field journals but often forget their value as a tool once data collection and analysis are complete. Recording thoughts as they occur to you eliminates the need to remember everything once you sit down to write. You will be surprised at how useful seemingly random sentences you wrote weeks ago are when a deadline approaches.
  • Stay in practice by challenging yourself to write 250 words (a page) three times a week, even when you don’t have time to work on your project. Don’t worry about the content or quality of what you write. Writing, like exercise, must be practiced regularly to stay in shape. Writing regularly will ensure you are ready to go when you sit down to work.
  • Leave your inner critic behind when you are writing. You can always go back to what you wrote later and revise or delete it. Most writers have struggled with their inner critic at one time or or another, and it can lead to procrastination and paralysis (or writer’s block). Staying in practice can reduce the power of your inner critic, but you never know when it will raise its ugly head. Natalie Goldberg (Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life, 1990, New York, Bantam) provides an exercise that I have found useful. Here is my version: Sit comfortably in a quiet space, with your eyes closed, and visualize the people who have undermined, criticized, or belittled you. You can go back as far as you want (a high school teacher of mine appears when I do this). Next, have everyone board a bus and watch the bus drive away, into the horizon.

How do you stay on track? Share your tips in the comment section.

If you need help with your writing, don’t hesitate to contact me: spromislow@gmail.com.

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