I am approaching the halfway checkpoint of my doctoral training and research. As I previously mentioned (here and here), I am doing my Ph.D in biology and my work is deeply rooted in the hologenome concept of evolution. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have a supportive/encouraging mentor and amazing technical support to excel in my work. At this stage in my programme, I have my comprehensive exams in a few weeks and it is a very stressful period for any student. In my recent blog, I discussed tips and methods that keep my awake and focused. Here, I want to discuss how to become unstuck when you have been writing for too long and you feel like your brain is about to unhinge 😉 .
Of all the aspects of the scientific process- I thoroughly enjoy the writing processes and I find it to be very cathartic to see your ideas on paper, or on your computer screen. However, like many before me, mental fatigue can take its toll on my writing capability. This is my fourth attempt at putting the blog post together! One of my favourite scientific bloggers and academic Raul Pacheco-Vego (@raulpacheco) wrote a brilliant piece on how to become unstuck. In it, he discusses the five strategies that he uses: 1) write an outline, 2) set writing targets, 3) answer questions regarding your work/topic, 4) read a paper and synthesise it, and 5) go for a walk with a pen and jot down ideas as they come to you. As always, he gives pertinent advice on how to increase productivity and writing. I have spent the past week experimenting with different approaches/strategies to get myself unstuck and get back to writing.
It was only when I stepped away from my work/writing for a whole day that the words started coming back to me. Now, I must confess the dreaded ‘monkey demon of PhD guilt’ — eloquently summarised by Katherine Firth (@katrinafee) — is a reality. And, it was only when I understood and tamed my monkey demon that I was able to relax and come back to my work more focused. I take a day off work and I do not think about my work or even discuss it. I find that keeping active and doing tasks that do not require a lot of thinking helps. Now, I hear you asking yourself- what does he do on his off day? Well, I love the being outside and I also take this time to clear up things at home. Often, we get so consumed with work and we tend to let some things at home fall behind. For instance, I use this day to separate my recycling garbage bin and some ironing. I also go for extended walks and picnics in the botanical garden near my house.
One of my friends uses this day to catch up on movies and TV series; frankly, I have never been one for TV. Some draw inspiration from comics… How about you, dear reader, how do you break your writer’s block? Is there a special hobby or regimen you follow to get yourself back in your writing zone?