Having navigated the first 16 months of the doctoral terrain, it is safe to say that I have done an awful lot of writing, some pieces amazing others; with great flow and creativity, and others which have been honestly, awfully quite bad. Throughout the past 16 months I have written essays, reports, book reviews, articles, blog posts, academic literature reviews, abstracts for academic conferences, summaries of my PhD research and so on! You name it and I have probably written it within the past year or so.
Writing, as enjoyable as it is, can also be a frustrating process. There are occasions that the words you are jotting down just don’t quite make sense when you are struggling to convey your message. Well today, in this blog post I will grapple with the latter. Here, I share 5 things that I would go back and tell my pre-writer self. Now, I want to be clear here. I am not a literary goddess, I do not find writing easy and in fact at school, English was my worst subject, I am to this day appalling at spelling and grammar! I much preferred mathematics at school! (Though I was certainly no expert at that either). However, as a Sociologist I cannot escape the writing process and I have since come to love it. For me, writing is about being creative with words, it is about expressing ideas and understanding in a way that captures the reader and pulls them in.
Whether it be a story, research findings or academic problem that you are seeking to pull your reader into, whatever the message being conveyed, a well written and creatively worded piece can almost certainly make anyone find anything interesting! However, anyone who has ever written anything whether it is an essay, an academic thesis or a short blog post, understands that at times writing can be an isolating and sedentary occasion. Often, in the modern world you find yourself glaring at a computer screen, typing words one by one until eventually they form a sentence, paragraph, story or message and this is true what ever it is that one may be writing. This mix does at times do nothing for the creative process other than to hinder it. Here, I share five pieces of advice on how to stay creative through out the writing process.
1. Allow yourself to get distracted:
So, you have been set a task and you must focus solely on that task right? Wrong! In order to get creative read around your topic, read things that appear to be irrelevant, read things because you are curious, because you were curious. It is amazing what this can bring to your writing. Reading around a topic or even off topic can bring new perspectives to the forefront; including new ways of thinking and understanding a different perspective! So, next time you have an assignment and think something is not of relevance, go ahead and read it and try to think about it in relation to the topic to which you are seeking to write about! See what happens!
2. Ignore the 9 to 5’ers:
A distinguishing feature of the modern world is that we work set hours. Whilst this is fine for those in certain industries and for those whose work rests upon the notion of creativity, it is somewhat not good news. On many occasions I have set myself the goal of writing for a set period of hours, doing a 9-5 day of solid writing and then pulling myself away from my writing at 5 o’clock in the attempt to ‘wind down’, only to find that my brain won’t switch of and that within moments I am back at my desk. Write when your brain is working and when the words are flowing. If your creative literary imagination comes awake at 3am, let it. Writing is a creative process and creativity cannot clock in and out.
3. Jot things down:
Wherever this may be, whenever this may be! In the middle of the night, as you are falling asleep, thoughts and feeling tend to have a way of appearing. When we are walking around town, shopping or cooking, when talking to friends, it is funny what things ‘spring to mind’. My advice is to write them down, whether this be a in a small journal that you carry around with you, as a note or reminder on your mobile phone or tablet, or even a scribble on the back of your hand! Get those thoughts down and write as much as you can! Return to them later and reflect upon the way in which you are able to bring these thoughts and insights to your writing.
4. Be passionate:
Whether you are attempting to write a story, poem, essay, a paper for school or a play; be passionate. Embrace the task that you have been set, own it and make it yours. Write about memories, belief, and personal stories or passions.
5. Edit, edit and edit:
When seeking to write creatively it is very easy to put pen to paper only to re-read it a day, a week or even an hour later to realise that perhaps, away from the initial moment of writing, it just does not make sense. The trick here is to edit. It’s not exactly a secret I know, but editing numerous times only serves to refine your writing to the point where it is near perfection. It also enables you to fine tune the creative message embedded within your text. Ever tried to say something out loud for it to come out in the opposite way in which you envisaged it? This often happens with creative writing too. It’s essential to edit such pieces; otherwise it may only be you that is able to decipher the message between the lines.
What tips do you have when seeking to stay creative during the writing process? Feel free to add to my list with comments in the box below.
Carli Ria Rowell is an Economic and Social Research Council doctoral student in the department of Sociology at The University of Warwick. Her primary research interests lie in the fields of social justice, social inequality, the sociology of education, social stratification and moral philosophy. Follow her on Twitter or visit her e-portfolio.