Insight About Writing

Writing is only hard when you have to experience this nagging thought, “I need to be writing, I’m not doing any writing. I just need to sit down and write but when will I be able to?” all the time. It isn’t writing itself that is exhausting. Rather, worrying about having to do it and not doing it is.

The reason why I always thought that academic writing was hard is because I wasn’t doing enough of it.

I’m on Day 8 of my Seinfeld Chain, and I just looked at my document and discovered that it’s 9 pages long without the notes and the bibliography. Those nine pages just appeared there from pretty much nowhere. And all it took was just writing for 90-120 minutes every morning. Compared to worrying about not writing, actual writing is a piece of cake, people.

10 thoughts on “Insight About Writing

  1. It is more complicated than this. If I begin writing in the morning, I am distracted by the stuff I have written while I am in my classes that afternoon. My teaching suffers. It is better to write on days I do not teach, or at the very least after I am done with teaching for the day.


    1. I don’t know, I actually feel more energized for teaching after writing for a while.

      When I don’t do research, I start feeling like a fraud who has no right to be in the classroom, and that hampers my teaching.

      Yes, I know it’s very weird.


  2. I cannot shift topics so quickly. When I am thinking about a topology research writeup, it is really disconcerting to shift to thinking about an undergraduate course in real analysis, or a calculus class, say. I always had the same difficulty as an undergrad. If I spent the morning reading history, say, I could not suddenly switch to working on physics when I was done; it required a break of several hours to change my mindset.


    1. Interesting. I find that shifting to a completely different topic and back is actually very helpful to me. When I’m stuck in my academic writing, I go to the blog page, answer some comments, and get unblocked. I attribute this to autism.

      I can also watch films and TV shows while I write and it doesn’t distract me.


  3. Yes to the post!

    DB, I see your point – I need breaks around everything if I’m going to do them right – I like to have a schedule but I’m not one of those who schedules every hour and I will *never* do what people say “helps them write” – set an alarm clock and write for 25 minutes until it rings – I don’t see the point at all. I’m much more, well, it’s 9:30, let me work on X until 12, then after lunch and the gym I’ll work on Y from 2:30 to 5… I’ve been this way since forever and it’s trying to change that hung me up / made it hard to work.


  4. And – f*** – somehow a piece of my bureaucratic work pasted itself into my post – could you ***please*** edit that out or delete??? How embarrassing!!!


    1. I was wondering about that part of the comment. 🙂 🙂

      Of course, if you don’t find the Pomodoro strategy useful, then you definitely don’t need it. For me, however, the first 25 minutes of writing are the hardest. I don’t know why that is but it’s like that. If I manage to do the first 25 mins, then I’m fine after that. That’s how my weird brain works. 🙂

      Everybody should do what works for them. However, it’s a good idea to try different strategies, I think. I’ve been hung up on this idea that I can only write during vacations, which wasn’t even true. And I discovered that after I tried something different.


      1. When I see all these blogs about how to get it done I realize what good work habits I had from time immemorial, all sorts of different ways of getting over rough spots, always working steadily, etc., but without having to do anything like put on ringers – . Oddly where I do find the SMT kinds of techniques useful is on things I really dislike: grading, housework, etc.


  5. I got down on myself Sunday because I was having real trouble keeping motivated on this one thing I was doing, and I kept fretting that “god I really need to finish this” [I’m about three or four paragraphs and an exchange of dialogue from the end]. But it helped to remember that Saturday I’d been having the same problem and switched to a different project for a change of pace and managed to bang out 3,000 semi-quality words in an afternoon.


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