First draft, one week on
It’s been a week, so I thought it was time to post a quick update.
Forming new habits and breaking old ones is hard. I started off making lots of progress, after an initial burst of writing at the GSBL ‘Shut Up & Write‘ meeting last Monday. If I’m in a conversational kind of mood, I can write very easily – between working at home and running forums over the last decade, writing feels more natural than speaking. But the type of writing is beginning to change as I make progress.
At first, there were lots of loose ends to tie up, or half-formed ideas to follow. Those are perfect for a regular, short timeslot dedicated to writing a lot, like the 25 minute ‘pomodoro‘ sessions that I’ve been using so far. It’s relatively surface-level thought, and they read like a blog post. No real surprise that Jonathan has been using it successfully to draft his Research Whisperer posts so far…
But that initial source of ideas is beginning to run out. It’s not that I have any shortage of ideas to write about. The problem now seems to be that I’m running out of low-hanging fruit to pick, and all the different concepts that I’ve begun working on in Scrivener have begun to get more complex.
Perfect material for a PhD thesis, right? Sure, but now I’m being hit with that familiar emotion that every thesis writer seems to encounter: wondering how the hell I’m going to know enough to do the writing justice. There are worlds of theory out there that I only know the tiniest bit about, and whenever someone says “Oh, so you’d be using something like X then?” I feel that sudden panic. I’ve never heard of that one before. Should I be using it? Do I need to start another literature search, and teach myself that area from scratch? Is it going to be a gaping hole in the thesis that examiners spot immediately? It’s a quick road to madness, I think.
So, plans for the next week:
Throttle back, and write at a more steady rate. This is more of a marathon than a sprint, and I need to find a steady rate that I can sustain for the next five months. I think that 800-1,000 words a day is an achievable goal… at the moment I’m aiming higher, but as the depth and quality of the writing becomes more important, that word count will change.
Find time for a second wind, or ways to help me stay on task later in the day. Early starts have been good, but I’ve been going write-write-write-crash and losing productivity in the afternoons. What I want to do is write, find one area I need to follow up on, read a bit, and then write again before going home.
In the next few weeks, I will need to work on a complete chapter instead of disparate chunks. I read a comment on Twitter about how supervisors need to start seeing completed chapters at some point, because those will make any gaps in the argument much more visible. I agree, but that’s probably another week or two away.