This is a guest post by Allie Smith-Hobbs.
It’s grant writing season. That often mean a very high ratio of Stressing about Grant Writing to Actually Writing That Grant. Many of you may find yourselves in drab and dreary windowless offices staring at a blank page in Microsoft Word thinking “I’ve gotta get this done. Why am I not writing? I HAVE TO GET THIS DONE!” The flickering fluorescents overhead and the constant distraction of students and colleagues popping by every few minutes are most certainly not helping your productivity.
When the deadline looms, you may feel the need to lock yourself into a room for an allnighter to crank out that grant, but will it be your finest work? Do you dread your next writing session or do you look forward to it as a time of refreshing creative inspiration where you can tackle your science in innovative and compelling ways on the page? Okay, I know I’m leading the witness here. Grant writing is often the necessary evil to keep the science going.
I’m sure you think about grant writing. A lot. What your last scores were and your reviewers’ comments, how you’ll frame your Specific Aims and just how close that deadline is getting… but have you thought much about where you do your grant writing?
Your creative workspace can dramatically affect your grant writing experience. From post-doc to tenured professor, your writing will reflect your inner state. I double-dog dare you to write a clear grant with a fuzzy Specific Aims. While the bigger topics of alignment, inner clarity and mental schemas are out of the scope of this blog post, there are a few actions you take right now to improve your grant writing process, starting with crafting your workspace for personal productivity and creativity.
So grab a cup of tea and spend a few minutes answering these questions.
Location. Location. Location.
This is your grant writing real estate. Where do you find your groove? Is it with a high energy environment like the corner of a coffee shop? Or in your office behind locked doors with all distractions (including phone and internet alerts) turned off? Or perhaps in your home office with a cat on your lap and a latte on the desk?
Music and Silence
Are you a fan of music or silence during your writing? Does putting on the headphones put you in a Funding State of Mind? During intense writing, I find most music a distraction (particularly if it has lyrics). The Spotify channel Deep Focus is an exception, as its tracks are selected for a flow mindset. I enjoy music in an editing phase, which is a different mindset than getting ideas down in a rough draft.
Routine and Variability
Do you thrive on a the discipline of a writing routine or do you prefer variability to keep you interested and your writing fresh?
You may prefer a different environment when churning out the rough draft versus the refining and editing phases, preferring more collaboration and interaction.
You define your creative workspace. The outer reflects the inner but the outer certainly contributes to a peaceful, energetic and organized mind. So if you have writer’s block, it’s time to unblock yourself and let your creativity flow. Starting with your workspace.
Let’s hear from you – are you a solo writer or do you need to chat in the hallways to collaborate? Do you lock yourself in your office for a late night or do you get up early with a cup of coffee and do your best work at the kitchen table before 8 am? And most importantly, do you need a bigger fix for your grants?