Everybody knows about healthy eating, but how many of us care about healthy writing habits? The same as keeping your body fit, you need advice on how to maintain your writing wellness. This article is based on my recent reflections on writing.If you’ve been to “Club Stauff” lately, including the Easter weekend, you know what life could be during the exam season at Queen’s. Desperate students buried by scratchy notes with colorful highlights, seemingly unsolvable math problems, search results on “how to become an Italian expert within three days”, unfinished Word docs with shitty thesis, bottomless caffeine replenishment and smelly junk food.
Meanwhile, grad students don’t have to pass through the baptism of finals, but I chose to write my MRP in the library, immersing myself in this undergrads’ desperateness. Five days’ writing was something tough, kind of reminds me of the experience of the Dissertation Boot Camp, which definitely boosted my writing progression but it wasn’t a great solution for the long run, writing that intensely is unhealthy both for you and your writing. So here comes advice on sustainable ways of writing:
- Write with the right spirit
Upon the end of the semester, we cheerfully say goodbye to our TA duties. Seems that finally you got some big chunks of time to work on your thesis or project, while your mind is craving for a vacation so much.
In fact, for me, it turned out to be a wise decision of writing surrounded with a group of people, who were all crazily dealing with their own important matters at hand, because it was a good transitioning for me to not to instantly loosen too much. Whether we had the same goal or not; whichever department we came from; whatever knotty task we were dedicated to, for that moment, we were all under the same roof, and share the same identity – the kind of hard-working folks who take school work serious, and that I wasn’t alone.
- Set daily writing routine and stick with it
Besides the spirited climate inside Stauffer, it was also good to have the writing set on a daily, or even hourly, basis, which could vary from person to person and may change over the time, but some principles are universal.
What works best for me is that I set myself daily writing routine. When it’s the writing slot, I focus on nothing but my essay, by shutting out all the interferences. And during breaks, I reply emails, check the to-do-list, mark up my calendar, read books and magazines, absorb news about my friends and the whole globe from social media and broadcasts, enjoy some delicacies, workout a bit, and completely leave the paper behind the mind (though sometimes it can haunt me for quite a while, but I always try not to think about it during the rest time). This pattern has been making me energized all the time, for I get to switch modes frequently before I was too bored to write.
- Take it easy and be kind to yourself
You never want to exhaust yourself in any writings. Writing doesn’t necessarily be miserable experience, though many grad students have long been tortured by the practice of transcribing thoughts to words. I once complained to a friend of mine, who is a good writer majoring in History, about my long-time struggle of writing first paragraphs.
— “I feel like I can never be done with the opening paragraph and if that’s the case I’ll never be able to write the rest.”
— “Why not start from where you feel confident and passionate to write about?”
I took that advice, though it sounds too plain to change anything, and it actually worked.
Besides starting with the right place, remember to end the writing at where you feel you can still continue a little bit, only because you want to leave that strength to tomorrow, to secure a smooth start for another day’s writing. Your mood is critical to your idea generation and writing quality.