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Beating Writer's Block
Author: ADMIN (ukstudent at gmail dot com)
Published: Wed, 01-Nov-2006
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Beating Writer's Block. Article by Student Learning Centre, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Common Problems and Possible Solutions

Not ready to write

Don't wait to be ready, get ready by writing! Write to find out what you have to say. We tend to think of writing as a separate activity from the process of research; the gathering and analysing of data. However, writing itself should be seen as integral to the process of research. Writing as you go helps focus ideas and can be a significant factor in directing your reading. As you formulate ideas you discover what else you need to know, enabling you to read with focused questions in mind. Use a technique such as freewriting to help formulate your ideas on paper.

No time to write

Just 15 minutes of concentrated writing can be enough to keep you in touch with your project, even when you are busy. Regular short bursts of writing can help overcome anxiety and writer's block, as well as improving motivation for working on your essay.

Not enough to say; writing is too compressed

Try using questions to open up your writing. Formulate your basic idea into a simple statement, and ask different kinds of questions of that statement. These might demand definitions, explore comparisons, or speculate about significance. Your questions might ask for evidence to support your arguments, or authoritative corroboration of your claims. Make a habit of asking questions from the viewpoint of your reader. What would someone without your special knowledge need to know? Since you won't be there to answer your readers' questions, you need to anticipate them. Academic writing is focused and to the point, with no waffle. If your writing comes naturally like this, all the better; just ensure that you have covered everything.

Too much to say; writing is overwhelming

Have a go at condensing your ideas; write a 300 word abstract summarising your ideas succinctly. Work on the structure of your paper by formulating a detailed plan and sub-headings, and then concentrating on one subheading at a time, rather than the whole paper in its entirety.

Perfectionist tendencies

At different stages in the writing process you will have the dual roles of composer and editor by creating some text, then editing it, then creating and editing again, until you are satisfied. However if you try to create and edit at the same time its easy to get stuck. By editing each sentence as you write (or even before you write it) you'll end up in conflict between composer-creator and editor. Separate these roles by consciously writing without editing as you go. Writing is rewriting, it's unlikely to be perfect the first time!

Problems with writing 'academically'

Academic writing conventions, such as paraphrasing and the use of elegant logical connections between sentences, paragraphs and sections, will become less troublesome with regular writing practice. This builds fluency and confidence in expressing your ideas in your own words, adding authority to your writing and making it a pleasure to read.

Allow time for your writing to incubate prior to the final revision; taking space from your work can offer fresh insight and recognition of writing difficulties. Ask a friend or SLC tutor to read through your essay before you submit it. In the essay writing process, the earlier you start to create text for your essay, the more time you will have to fine-tune the writing.

Copyright for this article belongs to Student Learning Centre, University of Auckland, New Zealand

This document was re-printed with the kind permission of Dr Emmanuel Manalo. Original Source of the article is located here: http://www.slc.auckland.ac.nz/resources/for_postgraduates/beating_writers_block.php

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