10 Types of Writers Block – Part 2

Here’s part 2 based on this article about 10 types of writers block and how to overcome them. Part 1 can be found here.

6. You’re bored with [this research], [it’s no longer interesting].

It’s weird to think this happens, because hopefully when you start a research project, you’re overly excited about it. But the truth is, by the time you get to writing up the results, it’s possible to start feeling burned out about the research.

At this point, what you need to focus on, is getting the knowledge that you learned out there for others. And the best way to do that, is to publish your results. 

7. You keep imagining all the reasons people are going to say your [research] sucks, and it paralyzes you.

This feeling is completely normal. Writing a paper is scary because eventually you need to submit it to a journal or conference. And submitting it means others are going to read your paper and write reviews. And that means you’re going to get back opinions, that may not be favorable, on your work. And, these opinions may be coming from the top minds in your area – people you’ll be hoping to approach when you finish for a job.  On top of that, you’ve probably spent a significant amount of time on your research, so the last thing you want is to have people write reviews about why they think it’s no good.

But to think that way is very negative. You need to focus on writing every paper with the goal and belief that it’s going to be accepted. And, then make sure you do your part, by writing a coherent paper that does an excellent job motivating why your research is important and people should take notice. 

8. You can’t think of the right words for what you’re trying to convey in this one paragraph.

It’s really hard to figure out how to clearly and concisely say stuff. And sometimes, everything you write will seem too wordy, or like it doesn’t accurately convey what you mean. In these cases, the best thing you can do, is give up on getting it perfect. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. But, until you have a complete draft, you’re not near perfect anyway. Getting your paper to that perfect (or near-perfect) state is why you edit. It’s not something to worry about when you’re still trying to get the first draft done.

If you’re having this problem when editing, there’s a couple of solutions you can try. The first, is to skip the section, and work on the rest of the paper and come back to it later. Hopefully in the meantime, your mind will have sorted out what was bothering you about the paragraph and come up with a solution. The second solution, is to erase the paragraph and start over. Instead of working on fixing what you have, start over from scratch and see what you come up with that time. It will likely still need to be edited, but it may be closer to a workable state.  

9. You had this incredibly cool [angle for your paper] in your head, and now you’re turning it into words on a screen and it’s suddenly dumb.

Sometimes, it’s hard to make something that sounds exciting when you explain it to people, sound the same when you turn it into a paper. Papers are generally dry. They’re suppose to be short, concise, and formal. This often means the story gets lost along the way. That’s not to say you can’t write an exciting paper. I’ve seen them, they’re just few and far between.

And while you may think your paper is “dumb”, you’re probably also your harshest critic. Get a friend, colleague, or family member (preferably one with some knowledge of your research) to read it over. It’s probably not as bad as you think.

10. You’re revising your work, and you can’t see your way past all those blocks of text you already wrote.

“I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you’re getting stuck during revisions, that’s not any type of Writer’s Block (as nebulous a concept as Writer’s Block is), but rather just the natural process of trying to diagnose what ails your [paper].”

I’m a big fan of not editing work right after finishing it. I find that I have a better ability to notice problems (spelling, grammar, coherency) with my work after some time has passed. It gives me a chance to really read my work.

The other trick I do, is read my work aloud. It’s amazing how much you can catch when you try to read it aloud. You’ll notice grammar problems and sentences that run on and/or are confusing.

Editing is a great way to improve your work. I think one of my favorite papers I wrote, is one that I originally submitted a eight page version for. I then had to cut that down to three pages. That sounds impossible, especially when you’re already cutting out information when you write the eight page version. But, you’re forced to become more concise, and clear, as you work to figure out what you can cut while still keeping enough to fully explain your research.

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