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Academics... anyone with writers' block?

(7 Posts)
madcows Thu 07-Jul-11 12:39:34

Just wanting to have a moan, and - hopefully - get some support. Marking is finally finished, and I should be getting my head down. I've tidied my office, organised my desk... know what I have to try to do. BUT JUST CAN'T GET ON WITH IT. I feel like a panicked rabbit in the headlights. I need to rewrite a paper, and draft another one. But its too difficult! I want to try and get as much done in the next few weeks, so that I can take some proper holiday. But holiday not booked. Plus, we recently moved house and lots of work to do on the house which has stalled as I'm not organising everything. And dh (also academic, and indeed co-researcher / co-author) just has lots of energy and bounces on with things.... altho' he's been getting v stressy recently too....
Sorry, but I needed to do that.
Anyone else in simiar boat?

dontrunwithscissors Thu 07-Jul-11 15:36:47

I'm usually always in the same boat, but I seem to have found how to actually get on with my writing. My solution has been to figure out what works for me, and go with it rather than against it.

For me:

- I write best in coffee shops. I need people around me, but not anyone that I know and preferably no wireless. That means I don't feel isolated, but I won't chat the time away. No internet to distract me, no laundry etc. I find I get straight in to writing as I've nothing else to do. My writer's block seems to be a thing of the past.-
- I've just bought a Netbook and Kindle, and the two together are really helpful for keeping me mobile. If I need internet access, I work at the gym cafe. I need to listen to music whilst I write so I have a couple of 'work' playlists on my Ipod.
-I need a change of scenery so I work between a Costa Coffee, Cafe Nero and the cafe in the gym. (That way I often get a bit of exercise in, too.)
- In that situation, I can usually get 3-4 hours of solid writing/thinking. That usually works out to 400-500 words of decent work. I've found I can't do any more than that. I'm spending the rest of the day either preparing teaching for next semester, or reading.
- It's usually best if I write in the morning so that I get it over and done with.
- I keep a daily log of what I've done - how many hours I worked on research and any factors that affected my productivity.
- I'm setting myself final deadlines for projects, and working deadlines for the various stages. I have all of this pinned up on my wall in front of me.
- I've found that I work best when I write every single day. It's no good if I wait until I have a full day to sit down and write. I never thought that was the case, but I really seem to have worked out what's right for me.

I've spent years trying to figure out how to avoid procrastinating. I've tried working at home, at my office, and back again to home. I think I've finally hit the nail on the head - I'm almost finished the revisions on my book manuscript a week earlier than I'd planned. That's NEVER happened before! Furthermore, I'm actually enjoying the writing. It's incredibly satisfying to move forward with my research every single day. Plus I don't feel so bad if I have a bad day as it's clear that it's just a blip.

Can you sit down and figure out a realistic series of deadlines? Not the ones you'd like to achieve, but the ones that are actually achievable? Set up a system of working, and a daily routine that forces you to get down and do it? What's worked for you in the past?

Good luck - it's really hard to break out of those procrastinating ways.


PS The only downside to my arrangements is that I'm spending a small fortune on coffee!

chutneypig Thu 07-Jul-11 16:37:56

Can you just focus in on a small bit, just to get over the initial hump? I find that helps me. Something pretty straightforward - a figure, materials and methods - depending on your area. Usually that gets me started and over the inertia. For writing I often say I'll do 10 minutes if I'm procrastinating. But once I get going, I usually do a lot.

I definitely agree with finding the right writing environment. For me it's at home with music on as loud as possible.

I'm finding it much easier to focus now as I can only write when my children are at preschool, so only a couple of hours a day, and I tend to plan targets within that time, also helps. But I do sympathise, when there's so much else that needs doing, everything's a distraction.

mosaica Sat 09-Jul-11 19:55:57

There are some VERY useful ideas here, so I'm watching this with interest. Please bring any more tips on!

Now that I have children, I find it takes me forever to concentrate on any work, let alone research. I sit at my work computer and my mind goes immediately blank. It takes me forever to get going, so frustrating...

To think I wrote a book in 6 months before I had the children - what have the kids done to my brain???

mosaica Sat 09-Jul-11 22:33:29

By the way, can any of you recommend a good book to combat writer's block? I've read some of the posts in the massive thread on a similar topic in this section, and someone recommended Professors as Writers. Have you read it and is it any good? Any other you would recommend?

GrendelsMum Sun 10-Jul-11 13:15:44

I sometimes say to myself 'I will do 15 mins, and if at the end of that I can't settle to it, I have full permission to stop'. 99 times out of 100, after 15 mins I've settled into the flow and don't want to stop.

I also find that doing a very small amount (say 20 mins or so) every day can be very helpful for getting over the initial block. I also find it's easier if during the previous session I've written some clear guidance about what's supposed to be written in the next session.

Politixmum Mon 11-Jul-11 11:33:17

I am halfway through reading the lo-o-ng fascinating thread further down about Capable Academics With Kids (CAWK) and there might be some tips in there for you - they mention books which help you write in short bursts.
Although be warned, a lot of the posters are in very difficult circumstances and this can make you feel a bit sad.
One tip is: Don't get it right, get it written. And as I tell my students, if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing badly. I used to not put written work out there because I was worried it wouldn't do justice to the brilliant ideas and fieldwork research, these days I have to forget that and get on with it before DD comes home from school.
Oh, another thing about the lo-o-ong thread, you must be careful not to do what I am about to do, which is go on it to have another read instead of writing the paper I am supposed to be working on! [naughty giggling emoticon]

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