As scientists, we love to get caught up in our work. We spend countless hours in our own heads, sporadically jotting down notes on the back of an envelope or a nearby white board only to throw the envelope away or erase the board the next day. The most common justification for this sort of behavior is that ”science takes time” and ”research should never be publication focused.”
The truth of the matter is: We are lazy. It is very easy to justify a day spent doing nothing if we can blame it on this one problem we have been stuck on for months. Rather than focus our thoughts and put them on paper, we prefer to leave them as evasive thoughts in our head. Every paper I have ever written began a couple of weeks before the deadline. There was always some problem that I had been struggling with for months, but given that the due date was mere days away, I had no choice but to start writing, in the hopes that the issue would resolve itself through some sort of miracle.
And it always did. Only it wasn’t a miracle. After a couple of these kinds of occurrences, I realized that my ability to perfectly align solutions with deadlines had nothing to do with luck, faith, or countless hours spent in the middle of the night. It was the very motion of writing. See, by typing out my thoughts, pouring my heart and frustration onto a piece of paper, I suddenly had a new perspective.
So my advice to every one who is struggling with that one detail in their proof is: Write it out. Not on the back on envelope. Not on the white board. Type it up like you’re about to submit it to your dream journal. Get the template. Make nice figures. You will soon feel like a reviewer rather than an author. And that perspective might just be all it takes.