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I like studying the subject and reading about it both from a technical and a popular point of view. However, I've been wondering what actual theoretical research - the pen-paper kind, if anything like that exists, or at most involving computers - looks like, and unfortunately Mr. Google couldn't satisfy my curiosity.

I imagine some of you have worked, or maybe still work, on a theoretical reserach project, at least when doing your PhDs. The field doesn't really matter, unless there are major differences I should be aware of - I suspect researching on string theory could be rather different than working on theoretical condensed matter...

What do\did you do on a typical day? What actually happens when you sit down in front of an empty piece of paper? Do you spend a lot of your time discussing in a group in front of a blackboard, or just thinking about your projects trying to find new ideas and solutions?

I guess the mainstream view of the mad scientist constantly writing down equations that describe in a beautiful mathematical form the mysteries of our universe is pretty distant from the truth; how much of your work does\did include tedious calculations, or other boring tasks popular culture knows nothing about? Do\did you spend a lot of time on a single problem, and in general, how long does\did it take you to solve one (I know this one may be a little too broad)?

These are only "sample questions", the first that comes to mind; feel free to add any insights you wish, anything that will help in conveying a clear picture of what a theoretical researcher generally does - again, I know this may change quite a lot even from a subfield to another : I am mainly interested in understanding the "general guidelines", if that makes any sense.

Since a time will come when I'll have to choose a faculty and possibly a related career, and since I've read extensively about the difficulties of landing a job as a physicist in the academia, I'd like to gain a better grasp of what theoretical physics is actually about, before considering pursuing such a path.

Thank you in advance for your time :)