by Francisca Concha-Ramírez
I write a lot. As a 2nd year PhD student, I am dealing with writing my first papers and conference presentations (yes, I count them as writing). I also have a science blog for the general public: I write blog posts, social media posts, and podcast outlines. As part of Astronomy on Tap Leiden I write newsletters, event descriptions, and more social media posts. On top of it, I also keep a personal journal and write occasional letters to friends.
Earlier this year I finished writing the first draft of my first ever scientific paper. The process of writing a paper was a frenzy: I felt like I had so many ideas in my head that I could not put into words. I had the vision of all the processes that had been executed for the substance of my paper, but I had a hard time describing them. The fact that I have to write in English (my mother tongue is Spanish) did not help. Around that time, and thanks to a lovely friend who is doing a PhD in Literature, I came across the world of writing books. Turns out that having a difficult time trying to write is obviously a very common problem and there are many sources of help for struggling writers like myself.
The first book I read regarding writing was “How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing” by Paul Silvia. I absolutely loved the book and it brought me into a mindset of being more conscious about my writing and writing habits. I even started an agraphia group with some PhD colleagues (basically a group to talk about writing and get together to write), which is currently in involuntary hiatus since, well, we kind of forgot about it. But the 6 or 8 weeks in which we were active were extremely useful and I am looking forward to bring it back to life after the summer.
The reason why I have decided to start a writing blog is because, despite the list of writing tasks mentioned at the start of this post, I believe I am not writing enough. Let me explain myself.
According to “How to write a lot…”, the first step to become a prolific writer is to set a tight writing schedule. This is a time block during the day in which you are not to be disturbed, not to plan meetings, not to answer the phone. Just pure writing. The book also presents guidelines on how to prioritize what to write (I expect to comment the book more in depth here soon), but getting into a writing habit was something that I felt I needed to do. With the agraphia group we set a writing block every Thursday at 9am, which I believe I only attended twice, for two main reasons:
So I decided to start this blog as motivation. I pretend to share my advances and struggles. It is intended mostly to be a timeline of my habits for myself, but I decided to make it open so anybody can benefit from whatever it is that comes out.
I have given myself a set of rules to start up my writing habits again:
Now, to deal with the “I have nothing to write issue”, I will also list what counts as writing, for me personally:
My personal journal and letters I consider part of my leisure time so I will not intend to force that writing. I will force myself to write on this website, though, to give me more writing tasks and to keep this idea alive.
(As you might have already noticed) I am a highly organized person and pretend to keep track of all my writing projects and schedule on my work planner. I will probably add an entry on my organization system after running it for a few weeks.
Let’s see how it works out!