Writing an extended piece of research, such as a 90,000-word academic book, takes a particular type of writing. Academics have different systems for achieving their writing goals but are united in recognising how much headspace a big project takes in comparison to a stand-alone 8,000-word article.
This week has been an intensive writing week for me, and I thought I’d share my strategies for achieving the right writing space:
- Turn off email
- Shut down all other Word documents apart from the one you’re working on
- Sit at a desk (this might be in a cafe but it’s achieving the right desk / table height)
- Ignore the outside world for 2-hour blocks
- Engage with others for short bursts of 15mins or so before getting back to your desk
- Keep going back over the paragraphs you’ve written earlier that day and tidy them up as you go along
- When you complete a section of argument, before you take a break, write the first sentence of the next paragraph or section (if only in jargon or note form) as it’ll help you with the post-break restart
- If writing ideas are drying up, do some references/bibliography work
- Surround yourself with all the books or articles that are relevant only to the section you’re working on, and only dip into other books to get a specific quote or check a page reference
- When the brain gets tired, stop for the day and do something completely different
It’s a system that works for me, and which I’ve learnt over the years of writing (this is my third book). But I also recognise that I do sometimes need to adapt to new ways of working.