Don’t Think, Just Write

Don't Think, Just Write | New Faculty


Academics are really good at being stuck in their heads. They’re really good at drilling sources for days on end, so much so that we get in our own way when it comes to productivity. Because writing is such a self-fulfilling prophecy, we often obsess, toil, and needle ourselves to death over words. On paper. Well, on fake paper in MS Word. So much so, that we just don’t keep at it. We quit writing. Grad students also do this–don’t get stuck in the trap!

I was discussing the ebb and flow of writing with one of my mentors and she said it loud and clear:


“Don’t edit while you write. Just write,” she said.

“Cite what you know, add in your own mark to remind you to go back and check,” she said.

“Stop worrying about using a word too much, you can go back and change it later,” she said.

“Seriously, just write.” Man she’s smart. I hate her/I love her.

I tried her technique this summer. I took about 10 days to pull articles, citations, and other background information I needed. I read/highlighted, and pulled citations into my EndNote. I outlined my article, knowing it would likely change based on the articles and data.

And then I wrote.

I gave myself permission to not nit pick myself to death for 5 days. I just wrote. I sat with articles in the morning, since that is my best ‘work time’ and began filling in my outline. I threw my own caution to the wind for 3 hours each day and wrote. I cited what I had, I made notes to myself for what I didn’t, and would put something obnoxious in for what I needed to fill in. They often looked like:

(smith, 2003 i think, check)

It took me six days to finally finish populating the document. I was happy with that. 20 pages.

And then I went on vacation. I know I won’t always have this luxury to put it down and walk away. But I was trying something new.

I came back from vacation, edited, cut, added, cited properly, and hit send. About six more hours of time.

How did it go? I felt good about the process.

How did I feel? I was pleased with the progress I made each day. Not each writing chunk was a total “winner.” Some were a bit slow. Other days the writing flowed like water.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! If given the time, space, and permission, this would be an awesome model to replicate.

My mentor’s words keep running through my head. As I **try** to get into a writing routine for the semester, I hope to channel her words through me each week, “don’t think, just write.”


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2 thoughts on “Don’t Think, Just Write

  1. Very good advice. I also found this panel discussion, which included my dissertation chair, to be very helpful.

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