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Overcoming writer’s block: three tips

Dec 24, 2014 by

Academics tend to use procrastination as an explanation for writer’s block, says Rowena Murray, but really, they are just avoiding asking for help

A common thread in conversations about how difficult academic writing can be is the persistent feeling of not being ready to write. Or not being good enough to write. While academics and PhD students might not call this writer’s block, they talk a lot about procrastination and perfectionism. They list displacement activities checking email, Facebook, references, doing the laundry, cleaning the room, mowing the grass, watching it grow – and they know that all of these involve not writing.

It’s a recognised problem. In his book Understanding Writing Block, Keith Hjortshoj says: “Writing blocks are most common among advanced undergraduates, graduate students, scholars, and other professional writers who are not supposed to need help with writing and do not need the kinds of writing instruction offered in the typical composition class.”

But why is writer’s block so common among academics? Is talking about procrastination just denying the need for help or instruction? Academics and PhD students are supposed to know all they need to know, aren’t they?

Would a request for help be seen as a critical weakness? Or is writer’s block caused by writing-related anxiety? Or unrealistic demands, leading to impossible writing goals? Or the absence of agreed writing time, creating workloads where written outputs are defined but writing processes are invisible? Or it is isolation? We write alone, and we don’t talk about it.

Given this mix of forces – emotional, cognitive, behavioural, rhetorical – we should use three strategies to deal with, or avoid, writer’s block.

via Overcoming writer’s block: three tips | Higher Education Network | The Guardian.

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