How to create “Head space” for writing

Momentum is so important to the writing of your PhD. There’s nothing better than the feeling that you’re on a roll, that the ideas are flowing and that this may well be the greatest piece of scholarship ever. But it’s all too common to feel the opposite: sluggish, stupid and a little bit blue.

Environment affects the way we work, and each of us works differently. Momentum comes with figuring out where you work well.

head space

I know researchers who take their scholarship out to Starbucks, some who can only think in the library and some who prefer to work at home.

I’m one of the latter. In my more pretentious moments (there are many), I like to think that makes me an ascetic, finding inspiration in solitude. Actually, it’s more to do with comfort and laziness. There’s a lot to be said for the freedom to work in my pyjamas, to have a constant supply of tea and the guarantee of silence!

If you do work from home, it’s important to have a routine. I work 9 to 5 but that kind of regimentation isn’t essential. Just make sure that you’re allowing yourself enough writing time each day, and that you take regular breaks.

The most important part of my day comes at 2 o’clock, when I do the washing up. I get to reflect on what I’ve written so far, and go back to my computer feeling refreshed and re-engaged.

Top tip: make sure you leave the house once each day. Fresh air stimulates thought!

Of course, the great advantage of working on campus is the vast storehouse of knowledge right at your fingertips. Off and on, I’ve been using the Library since 2001. Explore it – don’t always sit in the same place. You might find a book that sends your research off into a new and exciting direction!

For postgraduates, the Wolfson Research Exchange is your obvious first port of call. But you may find that the Silent Reading Room suits you, or that you’re stimulated by the chatter on the ground floor and the Library cafe. Or maybe book a carrel?

Some departments have a dedicated work area for their postgraduates and it’s worth finding out about these. If you’re feeling creative, try the Writer’s Room in Millburn House!

The important thing is that you know your options. Understanding how you work is crucial to working well. So find your happy place!


This post was originally written by Nicolas Pillai on March 3, 2011 | Original Title: Head Space

Photo Credit: Alan Weir/Creative Commons & John O’Nolan/Creative Commons

2 thoughts on “How to create “Head space” for writing

  1. I have faced the same problem. I also used to be very casual about my research paper writing and used to take them along to coffee houses and on trips to work on them. But I after some time I realized that I would not be able to finish my work in time and meet the deadlines. But then while looking for Journals to publish my paper I came across a company that helps me submit it online within a period of 15 days.

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