Every person has a distinct challenge when it comes to defining their relationship with writing. To me, it’s the beginning (i.e., starting to write) that causes the most resistance and anxiety. When I have to start writing a document, everything but writing gains a sense of urgency. The sudden desire to clean my apartment, organize my computer folders, or complete tasks I’ve been avoiding for eternity are all a sign of my fear of writing. But writing becomes much easier (and, at times, even enjoyable!) once I take the plunge and put pen to paper. The suggestions below will offer strategies for fellow procrastinators like myself who find it difficult to start (and finish) writing their funding applications.
Set mindful goals
Setting goals is a suggestion one frequently encounters when it comes to establishing a writing habit. While I am a proponent of goal setting, I also think goals don’t achieve much unless they are mindfully established. In other words, are your goals realistic? Can they be smoothly incorporated into your daily schedule? Will you be able to know when you’ve accomplished them? In other words, are your goals measurable? If you keep finding yourself setting goals only to later break them, then maybe it’s time to evaluate why you keep falling into that pattern. Assessing and determining your priorities is the first step in setting mindful goals.
Know and be comfortable with your writing style
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to writing styles. Maybe it takes time for you to put pen to paper or maybe you have no problem writing drafts, but grapple with producing concise documents. I, for instance, am a slow writer, and I know that it will take me a long time to produce a polished draft. But instead of judging myself for that and comparing my pace to that of other people, I try to schedule extra time to finish my drafts. Accepting your writing pace and style is the first step in establishing a productive writing cycle.
Get used to writing multiple drafts
The idea that you can wait until the last minute and assume that your muse will deliver the most brilliant research project for you to smoothly type into a grant proposal is a wonderful myth to believe in. But strong applications are only produced through multiple rounds of feedback and revision; never overnight and never in one sitting. So instead of trying to come up with the fully completed perfect first draft (which does not exist!), start with a bad first draft and then revise your way to improvement with each new version you write.
This post focused on tips to warm up to the idea of writing. Stay tuned for Part Two, which will focus on tips for how to plan your writing process!