First thoughts

How often should I write?

“Maybe there are some kinds of jazz musician who don’t play for two or three months, but virtually all committed musicians are constantly playing. It is just a faculty that is operating within them, and they think and feel and express themselves through it. They are always operating musically. So really, as far as the thesis is concerned, as there is a substantial textual output, you should always be exercising your writing facility. Always. I don’t think there’s a day goes by when I don’t write, even when I’m on holiday. Especially when I’m on holiday. And that musical analogy means that because your fingers and your motor-sensory apparatuses are doing these things almost automatically, you can move to the higher level to do something unusual, to explore. You’re not struggling to use your tools. These are all commonsensical remarks but they are borne out time and time again.”

“Some undergraduates complete a degree by bingeing their assignments, but I think postgraduates need regular writing routines. The biggest satisfaction a writer can get is by setting targets, chipping away on a daily basis at achieving those targets, and seeing an accumulation of material, like snowflakes building up into a snowfall.”

“When I was just starting out as a PhD student, one of the more senior postgraduates came into the communal office and said he was really pleased because he had written a thousand words the previous day, and then he’d been really shocked because one of his friends said that they tried to write a thousand words every day. Looking back on it, I feel shocked now that they wrote only a thousand words a day. I don’t think the total matters, but I think the doing it every day does.”

“I think writers need to discover their minimum and maximum daily output targets. The maximum is just as important because tiredness and burn-out are counterproductive. After all, you need to be at your desk again tomorrow. That’s all it is really – being at your desk (or whether you need to be to write). Writing is just a daily job like any other. Bus drivers turn up to drive buses. Hairdressers are there to cut hair. Waiters show up to wait tables. The writing job is to write words. Get to your desk, even if you have to tie yourself to your chair with a bathrobe belt, or set an alarm-clock, or have a friend lock you in the room. I don’t jest. I know people who have gone to those extremes.”

“If people aren’t doing major chunks of writing pretty constantly then they need to be writing. They need to be weighing up what they’re doing and recording what they’re doing and reflecting on what they’re doing. So, if there is not direct thesis material to be written, then there has to be other stuff running which keeps the writing channels and thinking channels open.”