Unique writing




The writer’s voice is how position yourself in the text that you write. It’s how you make your writing unique and it’s how you convey your own ideas and interpretations on what you have read. (Blog www.literaturereviewhq.com)

I’ve just read this small passage about the writer’s voice on the blog, after spending a morning reading The Thesis Whisperer  blog about writing and tips for getting started and keeping yourself motivated. This is exactly what I need now – to keep myself motivated to do my Literature Review. I have started last week and it was going well, however, then I stopped and now – I need to get back on track.

Also, I realised this might be a good opportunity for freewriting and actually, working with my reflexivity. How is my voice as an author? I could say it is pretty weak – I feel that I take things for granted – I take other scholarly text, as it is so – it is the way they said so. I know it is kind of a ‘wrong’ approach, as I need to be critical on their work. However, even citing their work in my paper is already part of critical thinking, so I can still comfort myself thinking that I am in line with the academic requirements. Not that I care so much about the academic requirements, but I do care for making a good research. That’s why this sentence ‘how you make your writing unique and it’s how you convey your own ideas and interpretations on what you have read’ struck me. Do I really interpret everything I read? How?


I am not so sure about that. When I am reading academic work, I put down interesting quotes – citations I think say something important to my work what I might use later in the paper, connecting with my points. Does it count as interpretation? Actually, I think it is only ‘cut and paste’ easy-to-do technique. I haven’t found myself writing sentences, or paragraphs after these citations, about how I might use it in my research, what are my thoughts about it, how does it fit or opposes my research in this moment, etc. Somehow it seems that I should be doing it. Pat Thomson suggested that (as far as I remember, but can’t find the exact blog post now). Well, I can have the approach of ‘if Pat Thomson says so, than I must do it – as it will produce something good. However, thinking of interpretation of text, I really wonder how other PhDs are doing it – what are these thought that they put on, how can I know will they be relevant for the research? Or, on the other hand, is that exactly what reflexivity is about? I will definitely need to explore that interpretation much more.


But I also wonder – is the interpretation of other texts what I actually need to put my ideas across in the paragraph – chapter – paper? Does it work in the way that I can cite someone, then say my opinion about it, and perhaps even my idea, that finally – that all together forms a scholarly text? If I analyse academic writing now – that could be what it is all about!


Another thing that stroke me in the initial quote is ‘how you make your writing unique’.  Well, I’ve already heard it many times before – I swear! However, was I thinking about it actually? How is my writing unique? Firstly what comes to my mind is the Introduction section in every paper/essay I have written so far. I always position myself in the context, field, and provide reasons for this research. However, now I feel something’s telling me – that is not unique writing! Everyone will do it. Of course, it will always read differently as we are different, have our won research stories and backgrounds to tell and obviously, our research differ. So what is it then unique about my writing? So far I was thinking about it (not too much, I need to say) as writing my voice in the research, as writing in first person, etc. But – ‘I can see clearly now’ – that’s not unique about my writing?

Well, then what is it??

I am really keen to know how can we be unique in our writing. Is it the layout I use usually in formatting, or colours of my headings? Probably not. I think it could also be the way I start or structure my section. I usually  finish with some semi-conclusion or summary, but that is also more to do with the structure then with my uniqueness of writing. I seriously need to figure that one out!


I know, you might say ‘Join the club!’


But I ask you ‘Any ideas?’






That’s my spot!

In one of my all-time-favourite sitcoms – Big Bang Theory – the main character Sheldon Cooper is extremely sensitive about ‘his spot’ – the place on the sofa where only he is allowed to sit. Only he. Literally. Whoever else tries to sit there (usually Penny), Sheldon sees it as offence, a catastrophe, they start the argument, and Sheldon needs to explain what is so special about that seat. So, here we go: “In the winter that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer, it’s directly in the path of a cross-breeze created by opening windows there and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide as to create a parallax distortion. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.” Yes – it’s bizarre. Nothing special about it for normal mortal people like you and me, but extremely important for Sheldon.  But repeating these reasons over and over again at least makes Sheldon so irresistibly funny. Well, I can still laugh every time I see that.


Also, hearing that so many times made me think about my favourite spot regarding the work – place where I can work, read, explore, be creative and literally, get the work done. Do I have that spot? Where is it and what is so good about it? After all, why to think about the place? Isn’t a laptop and Wi-Fi all I need?

It made me think about the importance of creating and retaining my ‘favourite spot’. It is well known that, in order for creativity to happen, we need to create environment for it. But that environment is not only ‘an atmosphere’ where we can take risk, explore and allow new things or thoughts to emerge and creativity to happen. I definitely believe the physical place is as important as social environment. Not only for creativity but also for tasks that perhaps don’t require much exploration but simply peaceful time to complete them. I wouldn’t go into theorising about the importance of creative spaces but will just describe my places. It is not one single place, as it also depends on the nature of task, time of the day, and also my mood.

  1. Home office – I am fortunate enough to have a home office – one room designated only for work, containing many bookshelves and seemingly, lots of hands on information. I know that my academic hero, Pat Thomson, also writes from home and there are many places where she is talking about the writing space particularly (if you haven’t discovered her yet, please see her blog http://patthomson.wordpress.com). It works for her and many other academics. For me – it works partially. From my office window I see my neighbour’s beautiful garden full of flowers, plants, vegetables and other products of nature. But I also see my garden – big green ‘space for further development’. Very often I loose myself into thoughts about what can I do in the garden, when will I mow the grass, water it, etc. And the time passes by – I’m lost in thoughts, haven’t started writing, and haven’t even done the garden. Not good. However, at the evening I don’t see anything outside the windows and I can always embark in exploring or writing till the late hours. That room provides the oasis of peace I need to do more challenging tasks, as thesis writing and get things done, usually at the evening.
  1. Library spot – Whenever I come to my Faculty library, I choose the same place (if available) for reading and writing. The library is actually beautiful, designed in wood and glass, providing lot of natural sunlight and the warm atmosphere. The desks are placed just in front the glass wall, allowing me a view on beautiful grounds. Yes, the view is really beautiful and using only one desk can provide an atmosphere of freedom and openness in space – perfect for allowing the openness of the mind in exploring new ideas. The most important about this spot is the quietness of the library. No talks. Perfect. That’s just what I need when skipping through the pale of academic books in search for citations and references. Daunting work in the great atmosphere. Not so shabby after all, I guess.

my spot library

  1. Costa coffee – No, this is not an advertisement (although I wouldn’ mind if Costa Coffee would support my PhD project in turn for advertising it :). But I really like that place. Firstly, they serve my favourite “SmallSkinnyGingerbreadLatte” – the taste I cannot get anywhere else. They also use nice colours for design and furniture. Some of the stores are designed as modern urban places (especially some in London), whereas others remind a bit of a home lounge with sofas and chairs. They offer free Wi-Fi as well – what else would I need then? There is something special about working from the coffee shop. Is it the noise of plates and cups, roasted coffee, the smell, or just the noise from people chatting, I don’t know, but it works for me. Maybe not in doing the challenging writing as developing complex arguments or deriving the theory, but it works pretty well for writing email, doing PhD administration, and editing texts. There is something in the sound of a coffee shop that there is even a company that provides coffee shop sound on your device – coffitivity (check the website www.coffitivity.com). I’m just sitting in my local Costa coffee now, in my favourite spot near the window and writing this blog post. Works great for me!


These three places combined work just good for my PhD journey currently. Each has something special and is a perfect match for some tasks. I’m open for new suggestions and trying new places. What is your favourite spot?

Academic (non)writing

Being in this PhD journey for the last nine months, I’ve learnt a lesson about writing procrastination. That’s one of these ‘everybody does it’ things among PhD students. You know that you need to write the journal, or the report, but you also know that ‘there is time for that’, as you are supposed to have more relaxed deadlines in working independently.

How helpful are the deadlines for you?


I think that I wouldn’t produce any written material without setting deadlines. Most recent, for example, is the writing of my report. I set the deadline for submitting the first draft last week, and guess what? I’ve only started my writing last week. It is so typical of me. Somehow, I simply cannot function without deadlines and I need to do things (or, at least, start doing things) in the last moment. Only when the timing is tight can I actually feel the adrenalin and get the required energy to embark on the writing process.

You might say it is a wrong approach, and I would agree with you. It is certainly not the best one. However, it is the only one I have now. Trust me, I know all about the scheduling writing times every day to keep up with writing, to approach writing as the crucial part of PhD journey, as writing is thinking, ……. I know it all. I mean, I read about it all. And realised it is a good approach. Only – doesn’t work for me.

I suppose it is because I’ve been always doing things in the last moment. Not in terms of enjoying life and being lazy before the ‘last moment’, but I was always a ‘busy bee’, doing so many things that ‘last moment’ for me was lasting continuously, as there was always something to be done.

I just wonder – is it a personality trait or only a habit that can be directed into new direction?

PhD world out there – what are your recipes for writing tasks and how you deal with it? I’d like to hear some new ideas.

In the meanwhile, find many great resources on the amazing blog by my academic hero, Pat Thomson.