1. unblockwriting
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    unblockwriting New Member

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    need your experience on writer's block

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by unblockwriting, Jul 25, 2014.

    First of all , I have specifically registered to this site as it seems that there are people who specilize in writing.
    I am myself not in the business of "creative writing" and my problem might not be totally related to "creative writing". Still with all the experience you seem to have, I believe someone will be able to offer a good piece of advice>
    I am currently in the process of writing my dissertation (a non-native English speaker) at a top-5 university in the U.S. Looking at my published work, it would appear that I am an "okay" writer. At least I get good feedback when people read it. Some even tell me that my prose is very clear, organized. Others go as far as to say that I write well. What they don't know is how much time it takes, how painfully slow it is and how much I hate the process - and myself while doing it.
    I don't hate writing in general, I think - posting on various fora, writing emails, putting down my thoughts without any consequence is actually simple and I can keep going at it without much hesitation (including this post). As soon as I start writing something related to my "research" or to work as an "academic" though, I get stuck. Writing 250 - 500 words in a day is an accomplishment for me! (after 4-5 hours of writing).It usually entails unending editing of the sentences and words I put on paper. I am not able to write three sentences, let alone three paragraphs, in one go.
    When writing book reviews or small pieces, this is not a big issue. Eventually I get it done and sometimes I am even happy with the result. But now, when writing a dissertation, this pace is unacceptable. I will never finish it if I continue like this.
    Now I am not exactly sure where the problem is. I've tried to read a few books about writing, and dissertation writing, but have yet to find the solution. I would be grateful for constructive feedback!

    Here are some of the issues I am struggling with specifically:
    1. For a 20-page pager I need about a month or two to get the first draft done. Some people might call it not a first draft - but effectively a 3rd draft, given the amount of editing I do during the process. I am not sure how to force myself to writer faster.

    2. Besides the incredible amount of time to produce anything, I struggle with the "flow" of the text as well. Since every sentence and paragraph is a result of "hard labour", the overall paper doesn't flow well at all...I find the text dense, boring and generally not put together well. I.e. the amount of time I put into writing the first draft is not necessarily offset by its quality. I often find that it took me too much time with little tangible results. I need to edit and rewrite it again. And time just keeps ticking...days and months go by.

    3. Outlines - all the literature that I have read says that you need good outlines. In my case I find that they rather constrain me than help. I usually have a very clear structure in my head how I want to write my papers and proceed accordingly. But then I feel that method restrains my freedom in writing and thinking during the process..and it makes the whole product look mechanical and simply, not a good paper.

    4. Once I tried to write a small piece (a book review of 1000 words for a journal) the way I usually write emails. Without laboring it too much and looking up my notes, I wrote it comparatively quickly (it was done in a week). The flow was really good. This turned out to be one of the few published pieces that I enjoyed re-reading. With all the other published work, I don't enjoy rereading it. This doesn't apply to my emails though ..there I get more kick out of rereading them.

    5. Perfectionism..is one common cause for a writer's block (so the literature says). And it's a serious problem, nothing to be proud of. Another problem is the feeling of being "overwhelmed" by information. I do feel that I suffer from both. Eventually though I suspect that I don't know simply enough about the topic I want to write about - that's why it's taking me so much time to formulate any thoughts. Writing about smaller issues is much simpler...be it blogs, book reviews, or op-eds. But my disseration chapters - that's really a headache. So very often instead of writing I feel compelled to read more. But then this is supposedly also one of the common reasons why people never finish their work (btw. I've been researching this topic of mine for years now - it's comparative work).

    These are some of the problems I am trying to solve. Anyone having similar issues? If so, how do you go about solving them?

    (btw. I might have written this in 10 minutes...the amout of words in this single post is greater than what I am able to produce during the entire day when it comes to my dissertation chapters).
     
  2. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    All I know is that when I feel I don't know enough, or need to research endlessly or spend too much time agonising over a sentence. My problem isn't writers block, it's procrastination. All of those things are, for me at least, distractions from what I really need to be doing. To overcome this I force myself to do a bit of speed writing. Not on a different subject, but on the one I'm stuck on. If I do it on something else, I'm just distracting myself again instead of overcoming my procrastination. So I put all plans aside, grab a new sheet of digital paper and just start at the first point my mind thinks of and write anything, whatever it doesn't matter as long as it's on that topic. And I'm not allowed to think on it or chew on the words, I just have to get stuff done on paper.

    Making a start is usually enough for me. Once I've established flow by spewing forth all the garbage in my head about it, the rest settles in and comes naturally.
     
  3. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't write dissertations (and never have so I'm not much help there), but when I get writers block it's because I've dug myself into a nasty hole. The dialog kinda just ends with no real launching point for the next part and that kills me and my flow.

    What I do is back up. Go as far back as I feel I need, usually a chapter, and reread. I look for where I started to dig down. I mark that point and copy and paste everything in that chapter (I do each chapter in a separate document for ease of monitoring word-count) and paste it into a new document, and just keep going, avoiding the hole I already dug. I try a different route. Instead of them going left, they go right.

    That's really all I have. I do some brief outlines for my writing (chapter outlines: one line saying what happens in the chapter and what PoV to use, and a book outline: a few pages with details of the overall plot). I sometimes struggle with perfectionism but I scribble my feelings of a particular chapter if I don't like it to look at when I start editing.
     

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