Take a dump

There's a reason I love this piece of writing advice. First, it appeals to the part of me that still has a third-grade sense of humour (um, that would be a big part). Second, and more importantly, it's highly effective. And so simple.

Take a dump.

Yep. Take a brain dump on the page.

People who are much less disgusting than I am call this freewriting. But I'll just stick with dumping for now. It's much more vivid and true to the process.

Think of it like a pre-first draft: it's more than an outline and less than a full first draft. Something about 'first draft' makes it sound like you need something complete. Not with a dump draft! It can be as disgusting as a gas station washroom.

Here's the idea: you're going to take everything you've got swirling around in your head and get it outta there. You're not going to worry about grammar, punctuation, spelling, or even writing in full sentences. You're not going to tinker, or edit, or research, or try to find the perfect word. You're just going to WRITE.

You've already created a road map, so you have a way to rein in your writing. The other main advantage to the road map is that it allows you to skip around when you're dumping so that you can maintain your writing momentum. If you're stuck on something, move on to another section. There's no rule saying you need to write from start to finish.

But let me back up for a second. I'm making a big assumption here. I'm assuming that you've done all of the background work required to write intelligently about your topic (lit review, data collection, analysis, evaluation—whatever is relevant to you). All that's left is to transfer it from your brain to the page.

How to take a dump

(Yes, I'm fully committing to this.)

  1. Eliminate distractions: make yourself a writing cave
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes (Psst...if you think this sounds like a pomodoro: congrats, you're right!)
  3. Using your outline, fill in each section with questions, lists, ideas, things to check, and full sentences if you're inspired
  4. Take a five-minute break (I recommend dance breaks - please don't judge)
  5. Do it again

Keys to a satisfying dump

  1. No criticism, revision, or tinkering: let it be terrible
  2. No need to write in full sentences (but if you can, go for it)
  3. Skip around and use placeholders to maintain momentum


What do you think: Are you ready to take a dump? Am I just gross? Tell me in the comments!

If you know someone who could use a good dump, please share.

Hey! writing your R01 application doesn't have to feel like such a slog.

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