How to Stay Creative in the Academic Resarch World?
Dear Lord, if I have to write one more paper on Starbucks, I’ll go insane. This is a common type of utterance from most academic writers. The reality is that no matter how creative you are, and how many approaches you take to your writing projects, there will come a time when you feel you just can’t say one more word on anything related to certain topics. At that point, you will feel as if you have written everything that could possibly be written on that subject – and then some.
These are the times when it feels like our creative juices are all dried up. And you know what? It happens. It happens in every writing field from time to time, as a matter of fact, so there is no reason why academic writing should be any different. Luckily, there are things you can do.
First, start taking projects in new subject areas. It might feel scary at first, but hey – you’re an ace at research, and you can do it. By writing papers in new areas, you will learn new things, get to use words in new ways, and spark those juices into action once more.
Next, try new kinds of writing. If you are used to term papers, branch into case studies. If you only do essays, try research papers. Consider longer pieces like dissertations or, if that’s your speed, go for the short papers. In fact, short papers can feel very liberating, because who can’t think of something to say for two pages?
After awhile, give one of your traditional subjects and paper formats another try. You will be surprised to find a new fount of creativity waiting for you.
My Couch Is Looking Better and Better
Working at home has some disadvantages for sure. The constant interruptions can be difficult to navigate, although all successful academic writers learn to handle that problem pretty quickly. It can also be tricky business teaching your friends and family members that you really are working, even though you are at home (and quite possibly in your pajamas). But this too can be resolved.
What happens when we start to get a bit tired of the work is a little different, however. Suddenly we’re doing word counts every five minutes. We’re scanning the jobs board for new jobs (instead of working on the ones we already have). And we’re eyeing that couch in the corner as a good place to take a break far too often.
When we get to this point, we are on the verge of burning out. And that’s a bad thing.
How to Avoid Getting Burned Out
Generally, burn-out is seen as an inevitable process. Common wisdom has it that when we start to feel burned out, it’s too late – there is nothing to be done but follow the slow decline. And perhaps that is true in many cases. But it doesn’t have to be true with academic writing.
The second you feel yourself eyeing that couch or getting up from your chair every ten minutes is the time you need to get busy to prevent actual burn-out. Perhaps a more aggressive time management regime will help you make better boundaries in your life and thus prevent burn-out. Taking on different kinds of projects should also help, as might working for another company (or for yourself, if you haven’t tried that already). Scaling back your workload might also be a good idea – if you’ve been doing 25 pages a day for three years, it might well be the time to cut back to a more moderate pace.
Other things that are not specifically job related can help as well. Physical exercise is particularly critical for people like academic writers whose jobs are sedentary. Meditation can help moderate the effects of stressful deadlines and the busy season. Eating properly and getting sufficient rest are important as well. It’s all about keeping healthy in mind and body, as well as making reasonable boundaries around the different aspects of life.
All of these suggestions apply to academic writers who are not in danger of burning out, of course. In fact, it is far better to prevent something like burn out than it is to fall into it, and being healthy certainly makes any job more enjoyable. Remember that balance in life is critical for all of us if we are to continue to juggle all of the demands that are placed upon us.
How to Get Help if You Are Burned Out
Sometimes, though, nothing will help. In such cases, burn-out tends to happen quickly, and it feels like hitting rock bottom. This is not such a big deal for those people who have other sources of income, or who have other means of support (such as a partner with a decent paycheck). For many of us, though, it is a big deal, as we have no other way to earn money other than what we’ve been doing for many years: academic writing.
If you are in this position – burned out on your academic writing work and unable to quit for lack of other income – it might be time to think about a career change. Plenty of people (many of whom are clients who seek the services of academic writers) work one job while preparing for another. If you find another career that promises a better fit for you, now that academic writing is difficult, plan to study and otherwise prepare for that career while still writing. You will find it easier to write because you have the real hope that soon you will have other work, and eventually you will be able to transition out of academic writing without putting yourself into a precarious financial position.
Shifting the Focus from Full-Time to Hobby
Many people who burn out on academic writing and find work elsewhere find that at some point in the future, they are able (and willing) to return to it, if only as a sort of hobby. There are many part-time academic writers, in fact, and lots of these folks are people who used to do the job on a full-time basis but found themselves unable to continue for various reasons. Part time academic writing can be a great way to make extra money, in fact.