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Academic writing, is this normal?

(85 Posts)
daisyjgrey Tue 14-Jan-20 10:23:25

Academics, writers, anyone with that kind of experience, help!

Not only am I a professional procrastinator (a different topic entirely), but it genuinely seems take me a good hour or so of sitting in front of a computer flitting between reading reports and scrolling through ASOS/Mumsnet before my brain has warmed up enough to actually get any sense out of it.

Is this a thing?
Am I just maybe a little bit stupid and need to give myself a stern talking to?
Do you do anything similar?

(The irony of starting a MN thread while obviously procrastinating is not lost on me by the way).

Camomila Tue 14-Jan-20 10:26:59

Completely normal ime!

What I do is start writing random ideas/bullet quotes down at the beginning so I don't have a daunting black screen staring at me.

Or I start doing my bibliography so at least I'm doing something while waiting for my brain to warm itself up.

FramingDevice Tue 14-Jan-20 10:32:58

I’m an academic. Normal, though, if you’re struggling to focus regularly, you might consider one of those ‘forcibly blocks the internet’ or ‘lets you on for ten minutes per hour’ set-ups. There are also a variety of apps that, unless you keep up a certain word count, start deleting the beginning of your document. grin

HulksPurplePanties Tue 14-Jan-20 10:34:25

That's certainly my normal and I write for a living.

SarahAndQuack Tue 14-Jan-20 10:35:20

Yes, normal (she writes, procrastinating from academic writing).

I can't see why it'd be particular to academic writing. I did, though, find it really helpful when a senior colleague told me she reckons she can't do more than about four hours of serious heavy writing in a day (ie., she could do more if she's doing footnotes or something like that, which is just a matter of ploughing through the task). She's really productive, too.

BugBasher Tue 14-Jan-20 10:35:29

Normal for me. I have an MA dissertation deadline in 4 weeks.... yet here I am.

Craftycorvid Tue 14-Jan-20 10:37:30

Utterly normal OP. Have you tried just writing anything at all on a blank page for ten minutes - rubbish, your shopping list, whatever. Warms up the writing muscles.

TheRealMcKenna Tue 14-Jan-20 10:39:06

My favourite TED talk ever.....

Areyoufree Tue 14-Jan-20 10:39:10

Yes, normal (she writes, procrastinating from academic writing).

Oops, me too (back to the grind I go!).

SarahAndQuack Tue 14-Jan-20 10:41:02


We used to have motivation threads in the Academics subforum. Maybe we need one. Or maybe we'd just all use it to chat on and it'd make things worse! grin

daisyjgrey Tue 14-Jan-20 10:43:44

Oh the relief! I was starting to wonder if I was broken.

I definitely agree that probably only about 4 hours of productive writing gets done in any full day of writing (unless referencing etc).

I tend to dip into the bibliography and tweak, proof read it for the millionth time, reply to a few emails and start to read resources related to what I'm writing and kind of ease in from there.
I feel like my brain is a bbq and you have to wait until the coals are grey before you can start cooking!

silencebeforethebleeps Tue 14-Jan-20 10:47:18

If I constantly worked the way I work an hour before a deadline, it would be impossible to cope with my output...look at it as a way of protecting the world from the onslaught of your brilliantness grin

daisyjgrey Tue 14-Jan-20 10:48:07

I also find that people who don't write, regardless of the field, don't understand the process at all.

I write best in cafes with generic people/cafe noise but I know some need absolute silence or a very specific type of music.

I was stuck at my partners house yesterday and was too grumpy to go out into the rain to find a cafe with a plug socket and Wi-fi so resorted to Spotify playlists of cafe noise to help me focus. It worked though!

SarahAndQuack Tue 14-Jan-20 10:48:32

grin I like the BBQ image.

I procrastinated through my entire PhD on MN, years ago. A MNer friend of mine told me she worried when on earth I was working because I used to witter on here so much. But it really helps sometimes, just to chat quickly and then do some more tweaking of a sentence.

daisyjgrey Tue 14-Jan-20 10:50:37

Yes! It's like a mini rest for your brain.

Oh god if I worked all the time the way I do just before a deadline, I'd be dead!

TeenPlusTwenties Tue 14-Jan-20 10:52:01

When I had big things to write at work (not academic, but technical) I found it helped if each time I stopped I put down some bullets for the bit I had to do next. That way when I returned I already had something to go on and it got be going faster. Would that help?

OverthinkingThis Tue 14-Jan-20 10:55:13

Sounds normal to me. It's a miracle my PhD thesis ever got written. I did all my best writing between midnight and 4 am. Outside of that time, i did formatting of references, figures etc. I doubt anybody can do more than 4 hours if good writing in a day.

Have you come across the Coffitivity website/app? It's a really good white noise source for writing to.

daisyjgrey Tue 14-Jan-20 10:59:43

I sleep using pink noise (drowns out the tinnitus a great). So will look into the white noise for working, thanks!

I can just about cope with something generic like Friends on the tv but I struggle with music, particularly anything with lyrics, unless it's part of the coffee shop hubbub.
I'd be a lot thinner and a lot less poor if I could write happily at home in silence with a cup of tea...

If left to my own devices I become almost entirely nocturnal and would work much more efficiently between 11pm and 3am but alas, in the words of Bella Mackie, the morning people won some kind of moral war centuries ago and I must conform to their construct. (Works better if you say it in the style of Lady Macbeth).

daisyjgrey Tue 14-Jan-20 11:00:28

That's obviously "a treat", not "a great".

This doesn't bode well.

smemorata Tue 14-Jan-20 11:08:59

I procrastinated through my entire PhD on MN, years ago.
Me too. 😄 I'm constantly amazed that I ever got it finished.

TheOrigRightsofwomen Tue 14-Jan-20 11:19:02

I spend about 5% of my time writing actual content for a presentation and the other 95% moving little arrows around......just so.

worstofbothworlds Tue 14-Jan-20 11:36:59

Hello, did someone say something about writing grants?

I had a good Spotify strike playlist a couple of months ago but generally music with words is too distracting. In fact, the data back me up!

I use rain sounds to go to sleep so perhaps they wouldn't be ideal for writing.
I'm on a bit of a random work schedule at the moment because my teaching days keep changing meaning my part time days keep changing but I usually have a timetable on my phone/PC for turning off social media after a certain time/at certain hours.

Justlovedogs Tue 14-Jan-20 11:45:33

Yep, was exactly the same when writing for my degree - although I hadn't discovered MN at that point, so it was any random Internet article that caught my eye... grin

Grumpos Tue 14-Jan-20 11:47:44

Totally normal for me to massively procrastinate when I’m writing, personally I think I work better when I let myself just “think” about the writing, the topic, the discussion points rather than sitting down and immediately starting to write.
I usually sit down with laptop for a good couple of hours and the actual writing is quite sporadic, a few paragraphs here and there, bit of googling, bit of looking at instagram then back to the work. This seems to be my method, I like to ponder ideas and let them come in and out before I write.

I don’t know how to be more strict, I’ve never needed to be really because even though I massively procrastinate, I do actually plan my work quite well so that the ‘distractions’ are part of it. I also work well under pressure, the stretch of a 6 month dissertation feels overwhelming, but tell me I’ve only got 2 months and my brain kicks up a notch.
Everyone works differently I guess, if you’re getting good results then trust your own process!

gaffamate Tue 14-Jan-20 11:51:07

I'm an academic and used to be like this before I had kids. Now I have approx 30 seconds a day to get writing done (or so it feels) so I tend to find it easier to get into writing quickly and rattle it out before school pick up time.

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