Blog1- Habits in Writing

I guess it is a good habit to write down what you think about your writing habits.

I have thought about this topic for the last little while, without writing anything down.  I imagine that is a pretty common starting point for most writing assignments, for most people. Before I jump right in about my writing style, I thought it best to comment generally.

I have noticed that people are generally unashamed to admit to their unproductive and superstitious writing habits.  Almost with pride people will confess that they need to listen to some classical composer or need to have a pencil laying atop their left ear.  I suspect people act in this silly way while doing a lot of other things too, but mostly keep those neurotic dependencies to themselves.  I don’t quite get why people are so excited to reveal their inadequacies as a writer. Perhaps the answer to that question is important to why people have them in the first place.

As far as I am aware I don’t have a necessary ‘thing’ that I need to do to write but I do tend to only function well while under some sort of time crunch.  It is not a very comfortable habit, and I suspect not one that churns out the best product.  When thinking about why I and why others need this imposed deadline to begin writing, I seem to think about all the possible directions a writing assignment can take for me.  It seems that before I am forced to begin, a writing assignment exists in many different forms, and I am unable, or hopefully only unwilling, to commit myself to choosing a specific identity for the assignment. It is only when the writing begins and the piece starts to unfold that its form finally reveals itself. I intend to take some of the mystery out of my writing and a good place to start would be in creating a more solidified plan before I begin to write.

No doubt one the biggest obstacles for me when creating a written work is my difficulty in engaging with my work with the same mindset once I have taken a break. I can achieve a certain momentum, probably both real and imagined, when I write that is very challenging to regain once I take a trip to the kitchen for a timeout. Perhaps this is related to the point above regarding not leaving a comfortable amount of time for a writing assignment.  If I cannot achieve that writing ‘zone’ unless time is not my friend, getting anything done before that point would be, and much of the time is, frustrating. It is a pity that people are so terrible ignorant of the origin of their habits, I suspect its because people are rarely able to change them and gain an outside perspective.

I think that the amount I end up writing during my career will depend on extent to which I can change my writing habits. I believe change comes from truly convincing yourself there is a better way. Perhaps it like an athlete who needs to perform several odd rituals early in their career and eventually lose those superstitions for more solid habits like proper preparation. I choose to believe that everyone can improve drastically in their writing as long as they are prepared to try. We do a lot more thinking than we do speaking and both of those a lot more than we write. With that in mind I am convinced that a key to becoming a better writer lies in establishing the habits which can allow one to most precisely translate the mind onto the page.

In my undergraduate studies I did very little writing.  From now until the end of summer I have several papers to write, a rather lengthy review type article for submission for publication and a major research paper. I fully except that this amount  of writing will require a change in my habits to produce the best pieces I can. I am eager to begin this journey which I believe should serve me well both in the upcoming term and in my career.

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3 thoughts on “Blog1- Habits in Writing

  1. Hi there,
    “I don’t quite get why people are so excited to reveal their inadequacies as a writer.” My feeling is that people feel a certain amount of liberation sharing the strange rituals they have developed over their schooling. “When thinking about why I and why others need this imposed deadline to begin writing…It is only when the writing begins and the piece starts to unfold that its form finally reveals itself”. Ok, but I’m going to suggest this term that perhaps you should be writing before you know that final form, but accept the transforms can (indeed MUST) happen after you have written. The trouble is that if we write thinking we are dealing with the final form, it become very difficult to step back and discover from our own writing. If writing is thinking (which it is), re-writing is re-thinking. Perhaps we can chat more about this in the coming weeks.

  2. I really appreciated the sports analogies, and they definitely suited your style of explanation. When you do sit down to write, and have a finished product, do you find that you edit your work at all? Or because of your writing habits you write all in one go at the end of the ‘crunch’ and therefore have little or no time for editing? Have you contemplated assigning specific deadlines for yourself, to self-impose that pressure and therefore leaving yourself more time prior to the official deadline? I know that writing quirks may be something that seem absurd, but sometimes I find that I am nervous and happy to share my habits, as it makes me more self-aware of what I have yet to work on. Thanks again for sharing yours!

  3. When I was in undergrad I operated it in a very similar way, only able to produce work with the pressure of time hanging over my head. When I started grad school I had to adapt that strategy or risk having the sword fall and cut my academic career short. I still procrastinate, but instead of writing the night before, I’ll start a week or two before (or several months before in cases of larger bodies of work, like my master’s thesis). Procrastination remains an important part of my process, a strange and utterly unnecessary habit/ritual, that helps me get what needs to be done, done. Perhaps this is your ‘thing’ as well. In which case, perhaps you can expand the notion of “the last minute” relative to the task at hand?

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