Series Note: The following post is the third, and final, installment in the Writing Strategies to Help You Start and Finish Your Funding Applications series. Click here to read Part One and click here to read Part Two.
The first post in this series focused on tips to warm up to the idea of writing. The second post focused on tips to plan your writing process. Now that you feel more comfortable with the idea of writing and have made your plan, let’s talk about helping you stay focused on finishing your writing!
Make use of technology to help you write
In an age where technology is arguably one of the biggest barriers to productivity, it may be ironic to suggest making use of technology to help us write. Nevertheless, as someone for whom email is a perpetual distraction (those of you who tirelessly refresh the page to check if your inbox is “broken,” I salute you!), I have found productivity apps immensely useful. When I need to write, I use SelfControl, a free app that allows you to block your Internet for a designated period of time. Once my Internet is gone, I set a countdown timer for 30 minutes and start writing. My strategy is to assume that I have to leave the desk to make it to a meeting at the end of those 30 minutes, so I have to write as much as I can. You can use a similar method, known as the Pomodoro Technique, which consists of a 25-minute work session and a 5-minute break. The TomatoTimer will automatically set the countdown for you and alert you when it’s time for a break!
If your mind wanders off while writing, acknowledge the distraction
If you are like me, the precious time you devoted to writing probably gets taken over by bits and pieces of ideas (mostly unrelated to your writing!) that you feel urgently need to be researched and investigated. Instead of buying into the urge and hitting Google, acknowledge the distraction and keep writing. To do so, keep a blank piece of paper next to you or open up a blank page on your computer. Every time you think of an idea to research or an urgent task that you think you need to address at that instance, write it down. You will see that the sense of urgency will go away once you’ve helped your mind calm down by making a note of the distraction. This way, instead of acting on the impulse and having that dictate your writing time, you will take control of it.
Skip the computer, and write longhand
If your relationship with your computer is marked by a level of tension no human should have with a machine, then try skipping the Word document and write longhand. While it may seem rather old-fashioned, I do believe there is something about the physical act of holding a pen and putting words on paper that prompts writing better than typing on a keyboard. And for the skeptics who feel like they’ll be wasting their time by drafting something on paper that still needs to be transferred to the computer, writing longhand may actually save you from the time you waste on getting frustrated with the ever-present cursor that idly blinks at you as you wait to be inspired by your muse. With nothing in between you and raw words, you will see that your writing will flow onto paper.
Read about writing
While reading about writing (rather than engaging in writing itself) may seem like counterintuitive advice, hearing other people’s way to cope with writing resistance and anxiety has been one of my biggest sources of motivation to write. Take a look at what others have to say on making time for writing, the habits of highly productive writers, and keeping track of your multiple writing projects. If you would like more tips on writing, subscribe to Cornell University’s Productive Writer listserv, which offers weekly tips on establishing and keeping a writing habit.
This was the third, and final, installment in the Writing Strategies to Help You Start and Finish Your Funding Applications series. Now that you’ve developed a thoughtful plan for working on your application, feel free to book a meeting with us to get feedback on your application materials. Best of luck with finishing your grant or fellowship application, and we look forward to meeting with you soon!