On Writing

Maria Gardiner and Hugh Kearns wrote a good article that says “Start writing before you feel ready”. This reminds me how to write blogs, technical documents and research papers.

The authors recommend writing 45-90 minutes for researchers trying to increase their publication output. I also agree with this idea. Looking back my own experiences when I was a PhD student, I constantly used my morning time from 9 to 11 for writing. Thanks to the article, I remembered I really enjoyed that quiet time. I was a student and had no need to take classes since I already had collected credits that were sufficient for graduating the university. So every day I visited one of the my favorite cafe, opened my notebook, then started writing. No distraction by Internet, Twitter, Facebook etc. (Actually Twitter and Facebook were not yet existent at that time.) It made me easy to concentrate on writing, that was exactly, doing research. Writing helped me polish my research ideas, and clarified what should I do for materializing these ideas.

I remember some students struggled in writing scientific papers. I guess that is mostly because they lacked the experience of finishing one research paper. For Japanese students, writing a full-paper in English is a huge wall that is hard to climb. Do you think they are not smart enough? In my opinion, that is untrue. They were all doing good research and sufficiently skilled for programming and studying literature in English. Even though, finishing a research paper is still a difficult task to accomplish.

Jeffery D. Ullman also says in his article in Communication in the ACM: writing more than 100 page PhD thesis is intimidating for students. So the general advice is to start writing for conference papers, which are usually around 8,000 words long. This is still a large volume, but are far less compared to 100 pages, which easily exceed 10,000 words.

If you do not start writing, it gives you a negative feeling that you are not doing well. The article by M.G. and H.K. gives us a good lesson on how to do the opposite; As you write, you can develop your thoughts. Writing isn’t editing, reading journal articles for research nor referencing. Just keep putting new words on the page. After that you can improve the quality of the writings. The process continuing writing itself is necessary for improving the writing, that is, the quality of your outputs.