Episode #58

What is Writing?

What actually “counts” as writing? When you give yourself credit for accomplishing your writing, do you only look at the number of words on a page? I say it’s more than that.


We spend a lot of time thinking “I should be writing,” as academia pulls us in a thousand directions. But we often forget all that writing really is. It is important to re-think what “counts” as writing. Acknowledging progress on a project helps us cultivate positive feelings about our writing, which propels us forward and keeps us coming back. But, the positive feelings don’t necessarily happen naturally. We need to deliberately create them. 


It Starts with the Pipeline

Try this exercise: Get out a piece of paper and start at the true beginning of your pipeline. Write down all the things that must happen between that moment when you first get your idea for the project and starting to write the first draft. Maybe you’ll need to have grant funding, maybe you’ll need to conduct specific research; whatever those pieces are, articulate them for you specific project list.

Now take a look at your list. All of this is writing. All of this “counts”. 

Creating Purposeful Positivity

If you can work to create feelings of excitement and flow about your writing, you will want to do it, and your writing practice will sustain itself. But this only happens by careful design.

“Writing does not respond well to self-doubt. It does not thrive in negativity. It dies under guilt and overwhelm.”

And you want to avoid writing sessions that drag, where you struggle to get words on the page and feel like you’re slogging through mud. Instead, you want to soar during your writing sessions, the words flowing, feeling focused and energetic. I call that your “soar state”. Here are some ways to set yourself up to soar:

  • Think of the times when you have the most focus, when you don’t have to take breaks and can keep going. Take a few days and note these times in your calendar. Once you’ve identified them, your mission is to guard them as your writing times.
  • If you never feel focused and energetic (hello parents!), then just write first thing in the (working) morning. Don’t check email, jump on social media or even check your to-do list. Just write for one hour. Three times a week like this will go a long way in creating positive feelings about your writing.
  • Another way to create that soaring feeling is to write with someone. You can do this in person or virtually. Be sure to set ground rules: talk for ten minutes about what you’re working on, then be quiet and get writing. You will get energy by being with other people who are focused and writing. 


In order to use our academic work to create the changes we want to see in our fields and in the world, we need to cultivate this positive relationship with writing. It is essential that writing feels good, and that we acknowledge forward movement towards our goals. People need to hear what you have to say, and creating a positive relationship with writing will help you to say it.

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