Writing things* often seems impossible until it’s done – so get started! 

*reports, manuscripts, dissertations, grant proposals, grad school or fellowship apps, you name it! They can seem super daunting, but don’t let that fear paralyze you!

Start writing & you might just surprise yourself . . . & if you have a deadline, you can keep reminding yourself that “a month from now” etc. you will be done! But you have to start! 

  • Start by just getting words down on paper
    • “word dumps” are totally okay at this point – you can always cut down
    • save lots of versions (at least daily), and keep of file with stuff you cut out in case you decide you shouldn’t have
    • avoid getting distracted tracking down references or words you’re blanking on – put in obvious placeholders (like XXXXX)
  • try not to get too attached to anything you write – there will be edits!
  • start early to give yourself time for these and keep coming back to them with fresh eyes (i.e. don’t try to edit right after you write it)
  • further along, ask colleagues for constructive criticism (and tell them what “level” feedback you want – are we talking big picture concepts or flow or nitty-gritty grammar?)
  • try to set aside blocks of time to get “in the zone” without distractions
    • figure out when your brain works best (e.g. early morning for me) and try to write then. Schedule to do easier and/or more fun tasks at sub-optimal brain times (e.g. afternoons for me). 
  • when your brain gets tired, give it a break – go for a walk, etc. to clear your head
  • start the “hard parts” early – don’t let fear of them stop you! just get words down on paper!
  • if you get stuck on one part, go to another (but remember to come back!)
  • if there is paperwork-filling out etc. that you have to do, don’t save it until the last minute. Work on it when you’re not at peak writing mode (e.g. afternoons for me). 
  • Remember it will never be perfect. Just try your best.
  • At the end of the day look back at all the progress you made! And remember how you thought you couldn’t!

grad-school & postdoc-related posts: https://bit.ly/gradpostdocetc  


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