Write productively

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The essence of writing productively is to develop a writing habit. You will find it productive to get into a routine of writing and to write regularly over the time period you are writing. Eg everyday, or every day over two weeks regularly.

Writing productively is also about regularly practising the different kinds of writing required in your field of study. There are many different strategies that you can draw on to help you develop a productive writing habit.

Plan to write - that is the top strategy for writing productively.

  1. Get focused by setting realistic and relevant writing goals for each writing period.
  2. Get started by brainstorming, mind mapping or making an outline.
  3. Do some freewriting or writing to specific prompts to help you develop a draft.
  4. Form or join a writing group and write with others to stay focused and motivated.

Note

Whatever you decide to do, give it time to work. Habits take time to establish.

Building your writing habit

Select one of the following prompts and complete a 25 minute writing sprint. You could try out different prompts. These can help you write productively and also overcome writer’s block.

  1. Choose a technical term, theory, or a piece of equipment from your field of study. Write several sentences to define and describe it.
  2. Write two or three paragraphs explaining a concept from your field of study to people who are not experts in your discipline.
  3. Choose four key terms from your field of study or research, and write a one sentence definition for each.
  4. Identify a claim, theory, or idea in your field of study that you strongly agree or disagree with. Write a paragraph summarising the claim and a second paragraph with your response and opinion.
  5. Describe an important experiment, study, book, or piece of research in your field. What did the researchers do? Why is it important?
  6. Describe a common process in your field of study, work, or research. For example, you could describe an experimental technique, a statistical test, or a workplace activity. How is it done? How is it used?
  7. Using your own data or data from an article, write a paragraph describing and analysing the data.
  8. Choose an influential thinker, researcher, or practitioner from your field of work, study or research. Describe what this person did to be considered important.

Source: Adapted from Caplan, N.A. (2012). Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers. University of Michigan Press; USA.

Dealing with writer’s block

Even with productive writing habits, we can sometimes experience writer’s block – that is, we can get stuck at various stages of our writing process. Writer’s block is when we experience writing-related anxiety which then obstructs our application to producing text. Writer’s block is common in academia. Some of us have trouble getting started on a new piece of writing while others have trouble progressing a piece of writing already underway.

The reasons for writer’s block are many and complex. It is caused by a mix of cognitive, emotional, behavioural and rhetorical factors. We can feel as though we’re not ready to write, or not a good enough writer. Procrastination and perfectionism are common causes of writer’s block.

It’s important for you to reflect on the cause(s) of your writing block. Depending on the cause(s), you might make an appointment with a Student Academic Success Learning Advisor or consider seeking support from the Monash University counselling service. This will support you in developing specific strategies for your situation.

Note

Ways to overcome writer’s block

Try out different writing strategies and evaluate which are the most suited to motivating your writing.

Step away”. Take a break from the writing problem – this could be 15 minutes, one day, a week. Give yourself time to clear your mind, and restore fresh concentration and energy.