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Healthy Writing Matters

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.cute_cartoon_writing_pig_sticker-r3740d96af5c04db7a4f1f075e133524f_v9waf_8byvr_630If 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 writing1transitioning 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.




Ma Chengcheng

Name: Ma Chengcheng Program: Cultural Studies, Year 2 About Me: I Completed my undergrads at Tsinghua University, with two bachelors in Chinese Language and Literature; Journalism and Communication. I am now in Cultural Studies at Queen's, specializing in Film and Media. My current research interest lies in contemporary cinematic culture, mainly on the visual representation of cinematic ideology. I start with "textual" analysis of film publicity, and combine it to the new mechanism of movie-goers seeing and perceiving cinematic images in the postmodern society. I am also into arts outside academia. I had three years' training in sketch, but later on I took up photography. I've been trying to infuse my sensibility to the art world into my academic research. During the past two years, I've travelled a lot to Japan, Korea, Canada, America, Germany, France, Holland, Spain, and different provinces of China, which largely enriched my experience. During these journeys, I always carried what I had learnt in class with me, and embraced new things with a critical mindset. Why I chose Queen’s: I have to say that Queen's is really good at outreaching. The funding is satisfactory. But the main reason that I chose Queen's is owing to the department setting of Cultural Studies, which is extraordinary interdisciplinary. This is awesome because I've got a platform to combine my varied academic backgrounds and interests together in a productive way. What I’m here to blog about: Grad students are really bound up in the readings, conferences, TA jobs, and even part-time jobs. We may not be so active on social media. However, our voices need to be heard, either by ourselves or by others. We need a place like Gradifying to exchange minds, share opinions, and build up networks. I always love reading and writing. And I see this an opportunity to use my skills to benefit the community of grad students.

Posted in General, Professional Development, Skill Development, Staying Well, Student Perspective, Thesis, Transitioning, Uncategorized, views Tagged with: , ,
2 comments on “Healthy Writing Matters
  1. Colette says:

    Great advice here for everyone. Yes we need to set ourselves some doable guidelines for each day. I remember at the “Lake Shift” last year we had a session on “free writing”. It’s just that, whatever comes into your mind put it down on paper. You can go back later to edit and make it grammatically correct. The hard part is putting your thoughts down, so give it a go. Everyone loved that exercise. And I love the fact you talk about balance. Write a bit, have a break, chat with friends. We all need to do this. You will find you are much more productive this way and more relaxed.

    If anyone needs a boost in writing, this summer we have Dissertation Boot Camp, the Lake Shift and Dissertation on the Lake, all coming up. Yes it is 5 days of camp, but you can still work out a routine for yourself.

    Would be great to hear what others do to keep themselves on track

    • Chengcheng says:

      Hi Colette,

      Thanks for your comment. I actually hadn’t done much free writing before graduate school, and recently I discovered its “beauty”. I’ll be in Kingston the whole summer and wanna attend all the writing camps! Excited!!

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