Fireside Chat: How to Be an Effective Writer and Not Binge

I used to be a binge writer and would write only when I thought I had enough time – which was never. I thought I needed blocks of time – like complete days – or long afternoons.

picture of Dove Raspberry Sorbet with dark chocolate barsFor me binge writing was like binging on sweet dark chocolate – chocolate cake or just plain dark chocolate. My favorite is Dove ice cream – not so much for the ice cream but for the dark rich chocolate coating.

I have learned from experience that binging on dark chocolate can make me feel – well not so good. So, I’ve learned to “manage” my binging and keep the richness of the dark chocolate to small amounts.

As with chocolate, I also learned several things from my binge writing days.  The days when I would sit in the living room writing my thesis.

Coffee cup on table with red blanket and fireplace in background. Writing my thesisA fire was lit in the fireplace on a cold winter morning and I could see my fellow grad student friends walking to class or to the lab while I was inside with my Cup of Joe writing away.

What I learned was this.

  1. I accomplished less overall by binge writing. Writing the thesis/dissertation is a marathon – not a sprint – so I needed to pace myself.
  2. My binging was not sustainable. I just couldn’t do it day after day. What I discovered was I was spending more time re-reading and re-acquainting myself with my topic.  It would have been better to have smaller amounts of time dedicated each day to writing. Not to mention how draining and tiring it is.
  3. I also realized that by expecting too much of myself – I could never achieve my goal. In fact, I learned that it’s best to start with a small goal.  “There’s no such thing as too small a goal”.  What a small goal did for me is to allow me to see my accomplishments and not get discouraged and quit.
  4. What I learned about writing is what I learned from my love of chocolate cake. Picture of rich dark chocolate cate with 3 cherries on topWriting is more than eating the chocolate cake – it’s about tasting the frosting or having one small bite. Writing can be that way as well. Writing can be done in bits and pieces. Having attended several writing workshops, I learned there is so much more to writing.
  5. One key piece is to leave off at a spot where I can pick up – so the idea is not to finish all of it – but to get to a place where I can pick up where I left off last time. Sometimes, I would make a list or an outline of what I would write next and use that to get me started.  That was a big take away for me. I use it today and share that insight with my students.
  6. The other important piece that I learned from writing workshops is that revising/editing, making an outline, checking references are all part of the writing process. So, when I only had 10 minutes, I can revise a paragraph or check the format of references.  Each step gets me closer to my goal.
  7. In a short period of time, I can read my paper and examine my writing from a big picture perspective and ask, Did I make persuasive arguments? or Did I convey my ideas clearly?
  8. Other times, I can focus on word crafting. I learned this from a great teacher – What’s the best word to use here? Do I need a better adjective or fewer adjectives?
  9. Does the paper flow? Does it logically move from one paragraph to the next? Do I have my topic sentences at the beginning of the paragraphs?
  10. Finally, I learned to check for typos and punctuations by reading the paper outload and then focusing on each word to find typos. We all know how self-correcting word processing has-a-mind of its own – it may not be the word we were typing.

To Recap:

  • Avoid binge writing it’s not sustainable
  • Set smaller goals
  • Leave off where you can pick up again
  • There is more to writing than writing
  • Revising and editing are all part of writing

Finally, if I write in long hand first and then type it up, I am more efficient as I am not trying to edit as I go.

Writing is hard work and tiring so it’s important to take breaks.dog resting at ocean shore with ball in mouth. Important to take a break after a hard workout!

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drmgrasso

My experience as the chief academic officer and administrator charged with providing vision and leadership in planning, guiding, and coordinating all aspects of graduate education from admission through graduation at two major research universities provides the foundation for our fireside chats.

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