I've seen a lot of tweets today from people embarking on the first day of their social science/humanities PhD. As I'm coming to the end of mine, there's one piece of advice I want to send back from the other side: write 🧵 #phdchat #phdlife
1/Before I started, I had no idea how much of 'doing' a PhD was learning how to write, learning to be a writer. From this side of the experience, a PhD looks like the painful (but ultimately, rewarding) daily business of figuring out how to say what you mean.
2/Obviously, most PhD students don't have buckets of time to write. We have jobs, dependents, caring responsibilities, health and wellbeing needs, relationships that need time and attention. But however slim the slice of time you can find, I promise writing is a good use for it.
3/In the beginning, you might not know what you should be writing. Don't worry -- write anyway. Writing is a craft skill, so the important thing is practice, not outcome. Even if you're writing things no one will ever read, it's never time wasted.
4/Keep a journal of your ideas. If a book or an article really affects you, write up your response to it. Write terrible first drafts. Write terrible second drafts. Try not to judge your work, but save everything you're proud of. It may find a home further down the track.
5/ Two things have helped me immeasurably in writing my way through a PhD. The first was developing a daily writing habit. Looking back, I can't believe I didn't do this until my third year.
6/Set aside regular chunks of time -- however short, however infrequent -- that is specifically and only for writing. There are lots of resources on how to do this, but I found Paul J. Silvia's 'How to Write a Lot' really helpful for cultivating this habit.
7/ Second, find/build a writing community, or communities. Find people who'll encourage you, who'll write alongside you, who'll celebrate the breakthroughs and commiserate the setbacks. Once you're feeling brave, find people you trust to read and give feedback on your work.
8/ For me, three writing communities have been invaluable. First, the @WritersSalon's daily Writers' Hour. This is an open group of all kinds of writers that meets every morning on Zoom to write together in silence and creative solidarity for just one hour. Magic happens here!
9/ Next is the wonderful Doctoral Workshop writing group that @chouliaraki_l established at @MediaLSE. Regularly sharing imperfect writing-in-progress with other PhDs can be such an antidote to the perfectionism and competition that plague academic life. Set one up if you can!
10/ Finally, my daily writing group: @wheretheroad @kate_gilchrist @robbiesharp and @ZoeGlatt. We write together, we stress together, we celebrate together. Writing my thesis during this pandemic would have been such a lonely task without these four.
11/ Obviously, writing isn't the whole ball game. Academia can be stressful, alienating, and precarious, and writing can't fix that. Join your union, guard your weekends ferociously, and support your colleagues.
12/ But then, write. Write now as a gift to your future self. Write knowing that no writing is wasted, because all writing is practice. It's the one thing I'm really glad I did, and one of the things I wish I'd done even more ✍️💻

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