Saturday, June 21, 2008

Back to the Grindstone

I've been out of school for a bit before returning to graduate school. As such, it's been a while since I have written papers. And the papers have already started.

However, when I sit down to write, it is almost like my brain freezes up. This has been increasing as my reading has increased. It's getting to the point where the brain stops working even when I'm trying to blog. I know Writer's Block is a real thing, but I don't know how to get past it.

Part of my issue is that it's difficult for me to get the brain going when I'm at my computer. I spend too much time editing and revising while I'm writing, so it takes me forever to get even one sentence written. I've tried free writing on paper to organize my thoughts as it's much easier for me that way. But there's this weird computer, complete sentences, paragraphs with a point, etc. block.

Any suggestions?



Psych Post Doc said...

I'm not sure exactly what type of papers you're writing so that could make a difference.

FWIW, if I'm suffering from writer's block I write something that doesn't take any real brain power. So I'll put together my references, put the results section into the correct formatting, fill in my in-test citations, add to my method section with sample survey items. I find that this usually kicks my brain out of block mode but at the same time allows me to make progress on things that have to be done anyway.

Good luck.

Candid Engineer said...

What is wrong with editing while you write? That's how I do it, because I'm completely anal and like things to come out near-perfect from the get-go. Yes, the downside is that it takes you a while to write the first draft, but the up-side that I love is that your first draft requires minimal revision. I just hate the concept of writing something, just to have to rewrite it later.

I agree with PPD, when I am not in the mood to do the writing, I type references into EndNote or do some other remedial writing-oriented task. If you run out of things to do, I suggest pouring yourself a glass of wine (just one). My words flow easier both out of my mouth and out of my fingertips when I imbibe just a little. :o)

Amanda said...

I occasionally go for Candid Engineer's suggestion (sometimes I substitute beer, though). However, if I have to just get words down on the page I'll write things out longhand. It keeps me from continuously editing what I write and it makes me think more about what I'm writing (if that makes any sense).

post-doc said...

Rough outlines generally help me out. If I have an idea of what paragraphs are supposed to say and where they're going next, I find it's a bit easier to force words to appear on the screen.

I hope you find something that works - good luck!

chriself said...

I'm a combo of post-doc and ppd - I'll put together a rough outline of what I'd like to say, go about putting together the bibliography, and I'll even type out sections of articles that I want to quote from (I can just copy paste). I've found doing that helps me sort out what to use, what not to use, and even what I can use in more than one place (not the same exact quotes, but items from the article itself, if that makes any sense).

After I've done all of that I just leave it for a while (at least 3 hours) and go do something completely different. That way when I do come back to it, my brain is fresh and it's got ideas all ready floating around that are actually eager to get out onto paper. Does all of this take some time? Yes - but I've done well on every paper that I ever did that with. Hope this is helpful!

Mad Hatter said...

I sort of switch back-and-forth between pen-and-paper and computer when I write. I'll jot down ideas, sentences, or partial paragraphs on paper until I run out of inspiration. Then I switch to the computer where I edit and "beautify" what I had written until I'm happy with it. Usually by the time I'm done with that, my brain has recharged and I can go back to doing more composition on paper.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

I agree, I edit as I go. It makes it seem like your progress is minimal (or worse, going backwards) but think of all the time you are actually saving! I work off an outline (I resisted this at first), but I constantly modify it. I highlight or crossthrough (in Word) the items I've completed.

I also do hourly word counts and reward myself with a lunch out, coffee, etc. when I meet goals. This might be on the masochistic side for you, but it totally worked for me for getting my papers done.

Darcy said...

I almost always write a rough outline by hand. Then, if I freeze up when I sit down at the computer, I just start typing my outline. Usually this exercise prompts me to expand some of my scribbled ideas, and the longer piece begins to unfold.

Writing on the computer gives the writer freedom to write in a non-linear fashion. This can be a great boon once you get used to it-- I frequently skip the introduction, or just type my basic thesis rather than a full paragraph, and begin with the body of my argument instead. I find that I'm less prone to writer's
block when I start with specifics, rather than with the big picture.

Good luck!