Just write now
Some days it’s a real struggle to just start writing.
I asked other HDR students, "What suggestions would you give to someone to get them going with their writing when staring at the screen and panicking at the ticking Pomodoro timer isn’t helping?" Here are some of the things they said:
- My number one thing is to just think about the next thing you need to do, the next word you need to type, or the next task. Don’t overthink it. Write a few words; you can always go back and edit.
- Go for a walk and dictate some of your thoughts using headphones and a note app on your phone. That helps me get the stream of consciousness flowing when I need it sometimes.
- One thing that helped me was just taking a small writing step, such as committing to writing one full page that day. I would remind myself that I did not need to finish the entire thesis that day, but that if I didn’t write anything, I would never get to the end.
- This is what saves me: never stop writing at the end of a thought, not even the end of a sentence. I always make sure I know at least the next paragraph I will write and stop midway through the previous. That way, the next day you know exactly where to start. This is magic for getting into the groove.
- Exercise. It gets me into warrior mode and helps me to feel I can conquer this writing hurdle that I am facing.
- I found it much easier to write something after developing a relatively detailed plan. I would often sketch out a chapter or even a paragraph in bullet points, maybe with a few references. Putting in that kind of organisational work helped me.
As for me, I recently got very stuck when I realised that I have a significant amount of thesis writing still left ahead of me. What got me out of the rut was the use of speech-to-text note apps. I would go for a walk and record thoughts in voice memos for myself, and would always start the flow of thoughts by asking, ‘what would you like to work on today?’. The choice of words here is helpful because it reminds me that this research project, this HDR program, is something that I get to do.
For those who are balancing research work and parenting/caring responsibilities, it can sometimes be extra tricky. Remember that you are not alone. Reach out to other students, talk to your supervisor, and connect with Counselling Support.
Below is a poem found framed in a corner of a cafe.
How to be a Mother and a Writer
Put that pen down.
Pick up the crying baby.
Let silence descend an hour
over the ironed and folded diapers.
A hurricane blossoms within.
When frustration keeps at you
like a cornered rabid, bristling rat, beat it.
Beat it to death.
It mustn't get near the baby.
While everyone sleeps,
Grab your pen and a sheet of paper.
Leave the gadgets. Travel light.
Steel yourself. Don't look back.
In the morning, pretend you didn't wish to be elsewhere
alone. Make eggs, sunny-side up.
Feel the tightly folded pages
in your pocket press against
Today and tomorrow