Study Leave Week 12

Writing space

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:

  1. Turn off email
  2. Shut down all other Word documents apart from the one you’re working on
  3. Sit at a desk (this might be in a cafe but it’s achieving the right desk / table height)
  4. Ignore the outside world for 2-hour blocks
  5. Engage with others for short bursts of 15mins or so before getting back to your desk
  6. Keep going back over the paragraphs you’ve written earlier that day and tidy them up as you go along
  7. 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
  8. If writing ideas are drying up, do some references/bibliography work
  9. 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
  10. 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.

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