Academic writer's block.
September 27, 2006 2:45 PM Subscribe
Academic writer's block: tips, strategies, experiences, psychology for dealing with it?
posted by RogerB to education (19 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
I am working on writing a Ph.D. dissertation, and my writing is going haltingly at best; there seems to be a constant threat of becoming stuck, blocked. So, I'd love to hear any tips or strategies for dealing with academic writer's block. (I'm in a humanities field in which the dissertation will be more about having interesting and original ideas, and writing a compelling argument about well-known texts, than about reporting new findings based on research. So this dissertation is, primarily, a large writing project, unlike in many other fields where the research being reported is at least as important as the writing.)
My writing style up to this point doesn't seem to be a good model going forward. I've usually written to deadline, in spurts of intense activity, after incubating an idea for a while beforehand. And I am not afflicted with logorrhea, like some academics I envy; I tend to write too little and too densely, not to overwrite and have to edit down to a page count. Still, I've produced short papers that I'm happy with, and published; and I am excited about my dissertation idea, so self-confidence would not seem to be the problem so much as procrastination and blocking.
More generally, I'd like to hear suggestions about becoming a productive scholarly writer. It seems like there's a big transition at the ABD stage, where a student who's used to writing smaller papers to given assignments and deadlines is faced with the requirement to produce longer works, write relatively constantly, and work with much less supervision for the rest of his or her career. Suddenly, becoming a productive academic seems a lot like becoming a productive writer of any other kind. How do people make this transition without getting stuck?
Let's assume that the rest of my specifics (topic, advisors, teaching and other responsibilities, institutional arrangements) are outside the discussion; I'm more interested in tips on becoming a productive scholarly writer than in getting therapy for my specific case. I've read a lot of books on this topic, and found most of them not very helpful (beyond delivering the welcome reminder that you need to sit down and try to write every day), but recommendations are still welcome.