I wish I were better at… writing

Time to address the elephant in the room: I am not writing. It is not for lack of ideas though – Summer schools, course assignments and studies-in-progress have provided me with more than enough food for thought. But if I have been thinking, I have not been writing.

I know it is bad. I am indeed utterly convinced that there is nothing like writing to help ordering scattered thoughts and develop new ideas. Plus, it is just good scientific practice – as this famous quote from Adam Savage, which one of my colleagues wrote as a dedication in the copy he gave me of his thesis, reminded me: “remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down”. Thinking about it, documenting one’s everyday research-related doings and musings is the piece of advice that I have most frequently heard since starting my PhD studies. I have also seen how some people include extracts from their PhD diary into their thesis, and found that I really enjoy getting this insight into their learning process. But I am still not writing.

The funny thing is that, a few months ago, in one of my post-sleep deprivation motivation highs, I did start writing my very own PhD diary – needless to say, it so far only has the one entry. Despite all my good resolutions, I have found it hard to take a moment to sit and set down on paper the outcome of my days, and that even if I have actually come to some thoughts I feel would be important to record. Those ideas currently end up, at best, on a sticky note on my desk, where they are forgotten until I am forced to tidy up my workspace.

The fact that I do manage to write sticky notes is interesting though – after all, writing on a post-it note or in a diary cannot make much of a difference in terms of effort. It seems that there is only a small step separating the messy piling up of sticky notes and the more ordered, systematic writing of entries in a PhD diary.  This makes me wonder whether collecting and arranging the notes I have written during, say, a week, in my PhD diary could be a viable solution to my problem? Baby steps is the word.

Have you also struggled with documenting your daily / weekly progress? What tricks have been useful in keeping you going? Do you think such a habit is beneficial?

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