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Information and education about psychology, gender, and trauma.

Advice and reflections on writing, research, and life in academia. 

Posts written by Dr. Jem Tosh and Dr. Lucy Thompson. 

6 Things That Help Me When I Hate Writing

by Dr. Jem Tosh

I'm currently avoiding my big writing task for the day by chatting to my friends on Facebook about the difficulty of writing. It got me thinking about some of the ways I manage this love/hate relationship - so here are some of the things I do when I feel like throwing my computer out of the window.

1. Sleep

I do my best thinking when I'm asleep. I don't really know what happens during that time, because if my dreams are anything to go by, it shouldn't make any sense. (I actually once dreamed that I was a time-traveling duck that transported through dimensions by going into canals). All I know is, my best time for reading and thinking about a paper/book/project is at the end of the day. When I'm at that point where I feel like I'm starting to figure out what I want to do, but I can't put it on paper - I need to sleep. Every book proposal or new research idea I have had, was written in the early hours of the morning. I woke up with a jump and had the clearest vision of what I had spent all day trying to do. Got writer's block? Go to sleep.

2. Heavy metal

Tired of thinking too much? Can't tell whether you're having a useful internal dialogue or you're rambling about nothing like a Trump campaign speech? Blast some music - loud. Tune out for a while and stop thinking. Give yourself a break and come back to it. Jump around too - you've probably been sitting staring at a screen for hours as it is. Bonus points if you freak out your neighbours.

3. Yoga

Get upside down. Get your blood flowing and move. I'm not very good at yoga, in fact I'd probably have a pretty popular insta account of my hilariously bad and uncoordinated poses, but I try. Maybe I'll get better at it, maybe I won't, but I'm moving and thinking about something other than my project and that always helps.

4. Go outside

It might sound counter productive, but if you're struggling to write something - get up and walk away from the computer. Go outside and remember that there is a whole world outside and your project/paper/book is only one small part of it. You'll be amazed at the inspiration you can get from a random and unfamiliar walk, or a spontaneous conversation with a stranger.

5. Meditate

Worried about the deadline that flew past you like a week ago? Spent more time calculating how many words you need to write in how many days/hours than actual writing? Stressing about your writing is only going to slow you down and fill you with self doubt. F*ck that. Meditate in whatever way works for you - do a body scan, listen to a guided visualization, or just breathe. Come back to the writing when you feel calmer and the task no longer seems overwhelming. If it is just a hugely overwhelming task - then redefine it. Can you make it shorter? Extend the deadline? Or - here goes - do it less well? Yeah, try not being a perfectionist and just submit the damn thing. What's the worst that can happen? It could get rejected? Big deal, that happens to all of us 80% of the time anyway...

6. Just write

My final way of dealing with writing struggles - is just write. No punctuation, no breaks, no correcting errors or typos - write the worst, rambling, non-sensical, most embarrassing thing you've ever written. Get it on the page. Then take a break, and come back to it and edit it until it's something you like. Lots of badly written words are easier to cut down and edit into a paper, than a blank page staring into your writer's soul.

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also known as Dr. Jemma Tosh (deadname)


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