“I worry I’m not writing enough…”

“How do you balance research and writing? I worry I’m not writing enough…”

This is a common enough concern, but for most PhDs you don’t need to write all the time. Instead, you should focus on doing the work required to give you something interesting to write about. If you haven’t done the research, then why are you worried about not writing enough?

Of course it will be possible to write something, but often you will find that it is impossible to continue because you’ve reached the limit of what you can say with confidence. The only honest way out of this kind of writer’s block is to do the research.

“You never want to solve a research problem with language” (Sebastian Junger)

So if you have a ton of un-analysed data sitting on a hard drive somewhere, it makes far more sense to worry about how you’re going to analyse it. Or if you are preparing to gather data, it makes far more sense to practice your methodology.

If you have an imminent deadline for a paper or publication then writing might be the most important thing to do right now. Also, as you approach the end of your PhD the focus will shift towards producing your thesis rather than generating more research content. So there will be times when writing is the priority, but you don’t need to worry about writing all the time.

Most of the time, the research must be the priority.

See also:

Writing your way to a PhD

Monkey-typing