Writing academic papers is a vital part of being an academic, but it doesn’t always come easily. Below are some strategies that have helped me, many of which I’ve built upon as part of my clinical ethics fellowship, to jump start the writing process and make it more fun to boot.
- Writing Accountability Groups
Writing is often a lonely pursuit, and having others cheering in your corner and helping you navigate the bumps can be highly motivating, if not downright fun. One way to make the process more collaborative and enjoyable is by joining or creating a writing accountability group. These groups typically have weekly check-ins about writing goals, writing progress and obstacles encountered. Writing accountability groups can help you not only stay loyal to your timeline, but also create relatability and social cohesion around the process of writing.
- Free writing
Free writing before starting my work helps me to get the creative juices flowing. I have always loved writing, but as I’ve gotten older, I have become more self-conscious and more reticent to write … anything. Writing when I know no one will see it or judge me helps me practice getting over this fear, gives me an opportunity to practice the art and helps me get to know myself and what I am capable of on the page. It is also a helpful practice for loosening up if you confront writer’s block.
- Building confidence in other areas
So much about writing has to do with confidence. It takes courage to put yourself, your ideas, and your scholarship out there for people to read and critique. One way to help build confidence in writing is by building confidence in other areas of your life. If I go running in the morning (which is a big stretch for me), take a shower, and put on my most confidence boosting outfit, I feel like I can take on anything. When I practice my hobbies and the things that I am good at, it helps me to build on my passion and feelings of competency. These confidence boosters spill over into all aspects of your life, even your scholarship.
- Make the process a treat
Pay attention to your atmosphere and make sure it reflects you and your values. This will help you get in touch with why you do your work in the first place. For me, that means working somewhere where I feel relaxed and happy. I often have to escape the chaos of home or the office to find a happy writing space. It can be my garden or a cute coffee house. I will often have a favorite drink in my hand – in the winter one that warms me up, in the summer one that cools me down. I feel grateful and content before I even start typing.
- Build into the flow
Your best and most productive work will happen when you are in the flow. However, at first the flow can feel more like a trickle. It will take time to leave the other things on your mind behind and find your flow. Free writing can help you warm up. Then, for me, it is helpful to review literature and what I’ve already written to get into the right mental space. Be gentle with yourself and allow the time it takes to get into the space of ultimate productivity.
-By Joelle Robertson-Preidler, Ph.D., clinical ethics fellow at the Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy Baylor College of Medicine