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Write on, brother: An ode to RSI

I’ve been reading a book on writing. It’s aimed at science writers but the ideas in it seem applicable across all types of writing. the part I’m on now (pretty much right near the beginning- I’m reading in bite-sized chunks) is about making a daily practice of writing, and just writing. Rough drafts, without too much thought, just getting it done and moving on.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write every day, and I’m not going to overthink it in the first instance. I’m going to write and let me thoughts work themselves out on the paper. I’m going to let it flow, find my voice, and uncensored myself. And I’m going to do it here, because what the hell- no one’s reading this anyway. Do people even read blogs anymore? Why would you when YouTube exists?

What are the reasons for this?

One – I do enjoy writing. I wrote a lot when I was younger, all of it creative fiction, but there are many memories of enjoying that process. I think it might be linked to my studies and the change from writing for pleasure to writing for grades. Reading suffered in a similar way. I also used to read a lot, for pleasure, and that also made way for reading with the intention of learning something to write about. Reading and writing for a purpose, became linked with extra requirements- like, the act itself was no longer the aim, but only the vehicle to realise a goal. Clearly, I haven’t thought about this too much.

Second reason. My job requires me to write. A lot. I get a part of my hours as ‘research’, and the way I get more hours as research is to show something for the time- it can be an outcome like an exhibition, or a visual work (if it’s the outcome of research and I can argue that effectively), but the main things that are counted as research are journal articles and book chapters. These are peer-reviewed and usually have pre-set ‘rewards’ for each individual journal, for example, so assessors can say, “you’ve published in this journal, that’s a Q2 journal, you get two cookies, and a bit more time to do research next year”. Or something like that.

Get on board the hamster wheel

All the hamsters are continually reading and identifying gaps in knowledge, new ways of doing things, contributing to knowledge by *mainly* doing a thing and writing about the thing which fills that gap, or adds that extra bit of knowledge to the zeitgeist. Now, what constitutes research, and how visual arts feed into that, and how you best justify what you’ve done as the output of research (they call them Non-Traditional Research Outcomes) is a long story around the campfire for another time. But the main takeaway is that in order to do well in academia, you gotta write. You gotta write consistently. You got to develop a style, a voice, and a feeling for sentence and paragraph structure. You need to develop skills in pulling a successful manuscript, or book chapter together. How to start, self-identifying strengths and weaknesses. Getting used to sitting at the keyboard and banging away at the keys every day, despite all the distractions and competing tasks. It’s an all over workout; mind is focused, body is ‘chair fit’, soul/higher self is aligned and on board.

Developing proficiency in writing is more than typing speed. It’s about getting that link from the mind to the hands razor sharp. It’s like honing a mechanical form of telepathy- from the mind, through the fingers, onto the screen. And the weird things that don’t occur until its happening. Do I look at my fingers or at the screen? If I look at the screen am I going to be distracted by all the spelling errors that pop up? It’s about finding the sweet spot between creating a flowing morass of drivel and being so inhibited by trying the find the right word that you become completely paralysed and lose all momentum.

The force is within you

There are a lot of strategies for overcoming distractions, but ultimately it starts within. I need to make the choice to sit down and write, every day, regardless if I have anything worth writing or not. Because if I wait for something that’s worth writing about, those days of writing will become scarce as my inner critic discards this idea, and that thought. How wants to read that garbage anyway *see paragraph two for my thoughts on reading blogs in the 2020s* No, I need to write to develop and hone the skills of writing and just get used to doing it on the regular. Sitting at the keyboard. Doing the mechanical telepathy thing. Just do it. And eventually, I’ll need to get better at the redrafting process. But there is no way around it. If I want to do well in this job, I gotta write. Reconnect to that youth who loved it, and enjoy it again, even if it is now wrapped up in different drivers and outcomes than in the past.

So, this Is my public declaration. At least 750 words per day, for the next week. A different idea or theme each day. Building a practice, and a tolerance for the act of writing. My time starts… now.

Random yet somewhat related posts

Did you enjoy that? Why not head along to my online store and pick out some comics to read? They come complete not only with words but also pictures. Some of them are pretty good! I’m not saying which though. You’ll have to see for yourself.