What is Mindful Scientific Writing and why you need more of it?
Updated: Jan 7
Are you sometimes so excited about something that you wake up too early and cannot continue sleeping? I do, and I can’t go back to sleep! Not even after doing one of the meditations I am always talking about (although at least I feel relaxed). Last week, in one of those early wake-ups I realized that I am ALL THE TIME speaking about “Mindful Scientific Writing” (my online course, in case you are new here…). But I never wrote a blog post about it!
And that cannot be. So here, I want to tell you a bit more about what Mindful Scientific Writing means to me, so you can decide if you need to have more of it. And if you want to start writing your papers more mindfully, you can get my free pdf guide (the “Starter kit”), in case you don’t have yet…Now, let’s start!
The “Mindful” part
This part is writing your scientific work while being aware of our thoughts, present, and without judgment. It seems easy, but to some of us, it’s freaking difficult! You may see your mind wandering to remote places, often towards not so useful thoughts (e.g. “I am not inspired”, “I am a terrible writer”, “nobody will want to publish this paper”). It ́s exactly in those moments when we need to be aware of our thoughts, and go back to actual writing.
Being present is also challenging when you are supposed to have a vision for the next 5 years of your academic life. That vision is important too. But when you sit to write, to do it effectively you need to be present. To shut down all possible distractions. To focus on your writing, and not worrying about whether your supervisor will like what you wrote. All those thoughts that trigger fears and insecurities, and that stop you from writing, are in the future, not in the present.
And last but not least, you need to stop judging yourself while you are writing. This is tough as a scientist because part of your training is critical thinking. And that’s good. You need to think critically about what you do. But you also need to set up a line, to not do it all the time. Especially when you are writing and trying to find the famous “flow”. Leave it for the moment of “critically revising”.
The “Scientific” part
I loved being a scientist, and I still think is one of the most beautiful careers out there. But it can also be hard, as a scientist and an academic, you probably face many challenges that are common to many of us. And we need to learn to deal with those challenges (while the academic system improves…). Think about, for example, rejection. Although you know it is normal and you are ready for it, rejections still hurt every time. You can read more about rejections in academia in this blog post with some ideas on how to deal with them.
Time and project management are crucial skills that are part of being a scientist, and that I feel we are not trained enough. You need to master these skills to finish your projects without sacrificing your personal life and your health in the way. As an academic, every article is a project, you may be supervising a team of people (students, research assistants, even Ph.D. candidates), and you probably have budgets and deadlines to finish those projects. And the thing is, there are many strategies out there to improve your productivity! For some ideas, you can have a look at this post on how to focus and write when working from home (many apply to write at your office!).
The “Writing” part
And then comes the writing…there is so much to learn about it! Either from general writing strategies that are also common among creative writers. Or from more specific guidelines for academic writing. We can be seen as “lucky” for having a clear structure for our experimental papers: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. But inside each of those sections, there is also a structure, and elements that need to be present (and often are missing on not clear enough). Again, this is something you can learn, from a course, from a book, or from the magical Google ;)
And now it’s time to answer the most difficult question: why do you need Mindful Scientific Writing? The answer is you may not need it. What you need is a system that works for you, “mindful” or not. But if you came all the way to here, it’s probably because the main obstacle between you and your writing is something around your mindset. That was me. It is still me some days. But now I have a system that keeps those mind blocks in place and helps me moving forward and keep writing. So, if that’s you, please stick around and you may find some things useful in “I focus and write”! And to start, you can grab here my FREE pdf guide “Starter kit for a more mindful scientific writing”.