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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question looks at how to juggle research with writing. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.
How do you juggle research with writing? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.
I have a question from Matthew Stevenson, a writer based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Here’s what he’s asked by email….
“I write blog articles based on a lot of research. What I’m finding difficult is figuring out how to write without stopping constantly to look at my research. The most jarring thing is the constant back and forth I have to do between writing and referring back. I write a sentence, then look at my reference, reword what they’ve said, check another reference for additional information, and so on. Do you have any advice on this? “
Thanks for your question, Matthew. Although you’re a blogger, many academic writers face exactly the same challenge. And I’ve been able to help them fix this issue.
The heart of the problem is that research is a linear, logical task using the linear, logical part of your brain. And writing is a creative task that should use the CREATIVE part.
Do you see the issue? You’re trying to use two very different parts of your brain at once. This is a recipe for frustration!
Instead, do just one thing at a time. Research and THEN write. Don’t just try to “re-word” other sources. That’s a game that high school students play when they don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing.
Read the research. Digest it. Understand it. Then write about it, without needing to peek.
One other tip might help you and that’s keeping a research diary. I’ve written about this and made a video before, links in the show notes. But let me recap the key points here.
The diary is not meant to contain any actual research. Instead, its purpose is to capture your REACTION to it. It should include your thoughts, feelings, views and opinions.
The big benefit of a research diary is that it allows you to continue writing, even while you’re busy researching. Some writers get sucked into making endless notes about what others have said. A research diary will stop that.
But, Matthew, what you really need to focus on is doing one thing at a time. When you research, research. When you write, write. When you edit, edit.
I know you’re worried that you might be making mistakes when you write. Well, I can guarantee you will be. But don’t worry about it! When you’re writing is not the time to fix those mistakes. The time to do that job when you’re editing. At that point, you can review what you wrote — compared to what your sources said — and fix any errors.
Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from fantasy and sci fi writer Ray Bradbury. “I don’t do research. I never have.”
Matthew, I’m giving you that Bradbury quote only to tease. I understand and respect the need for research. But don’t let it disrupt your writing process. Instead, use a research diary to form your opinions. Then, improve your writing and check for accuracy later — when you are editing. This multi-step process will give you a much better result.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.