Getting Into the Writing State of Mind

Imagine the perfect romantic evening. Candles burning, dreamy music playing and the fire crackling quietly in the background. Two glasses clink as an amazing meal cooks in the oven. Romance is so much easier when the mood is set, right? 

Yet we rarely attempt to create an ideal “mood” when we write. Instead we often sit down in front of a cold screen and expect magic to flow from our fingertips. But, just like romance, you must make an effort to create the right ambience to get the writing flow moving.

5 Tips to Get in the Writing Mood

Take time to shift internal gears.

Writing develops more easily when you are in an open and relaxed state of mind. If you’re stressed or preoccupied, it’s that much harder to create and construct. Whether it’s a brief walk, 15 minutes of yoga, a relaxing shower or a song sung at top-lung capacity, give yourself the time to release and prepare your mind before you sit down at the screen.  

Create a dedicated writing space.

It doesn’t have to be a designated office overlooking the park. It can be a small nook in your attic or a quiet area of your basement. A desk simply placed near your favourite window may be perfect. The key is to create a dedicated space–a writing zone–no matter how small or humble. Hang quotes or images that inspire you. Make sure you feel comfortable and ready to be inspired. (For inspiring small office ideas and pics, see this!)

Define small but attainable goals.

One of the biggest obstacles to good writing is setting unrealistic goals. Think of delectable bite-sized pieces instead of 3-course meals. Frequency matters more than quantity, so if you can only manage to write for 15 minutes a day, make sure that happens every day. When goals are small, manageable (and less intimidating) you’re more likely to continue and finish. 

Get weird, stay loose.

Writing can feel so painfully formal. It’s like we’re in a constant state of submitting an essay to our high school teacher, grouchy Miss Grundy. We become cognitively constipated and completely lacking in flow, especially when it comes to writing in the academic genre.

Take some time before or during your writing session to “jam” – but no blue screen allowed. Go old school: pen to paper. Write whatever you damn well please. Don’t make sense. Express your frustrations of the day. Make up words. Draw suddenly. Dare to write in incomplete sentences. Purge on paper. Try a graphic mind map. Think of it as the equivalent of a stretch before a good run. Then, ease into your actual dissertation subject. 

Fake it through the rough spots.

You know the feeling: you were in the flow mere minutes ago then suddenly you…are…stuck. You deliberate and delete every word. You become the evil editor of your own work. What do you do with a difficult section? Try creating temporary filler for the time being, just to move the piece forward. In a pinch, write out: “I’m not sure what to do with this section but I’d like to relay a, b and c.” You’ll be surprised. Often portions of this filler will make the final cut. Or, temporarily skip that section altogether and move forward to the next. Don’t think of the dissertation process as being linear, because it’s not.

Writing is a state of mind as much as it is an action. Experiment with different ways to create an atmosphere that works for you. Treat yourself the way you’d treat an artist ready to create a masterful piece of work. And get ready for tangible progress! (For more ideas on freeing your muse, check this out.)