Writer’s Block-head

There are two kinds of writer’s block that I know of, both with the same root. In one, I don’t know enough about my subject to be able to write coherently about it. In the other, I don’t want to write about my subject. The commonality is that I need to do more thinking before I start writing.

For the first, I’ll start with pad and pencil, and begin free writing everything I know about my subject. What is the story I’m trying to tell? Where are the data gaps? Can I explain around the gaps or do I need to do more research? Does the logic flow smoothly from data to conclusion? If not, do I need to gather more or different data, or do I need to change my conclusion? Do I have the proper references for each fact I assert? My ignorance, once properly documented, is turned into a To Do list of questions to answer, niggling details to attend to, T’s to dot, and I’s to cross.

If I’m just having a hard time sitting down to work on a piece, it’s often because the back of my brain, which is much smarter than the rest of me, hasn’t quite finished hatching the egg. I can push-start the process by writing the parts that I do know. Physical motion, such as taking a walk to get the blood pumped out of my ass and back into my brain, often helps to grease the cognitive cogs. I will stalk around, muttering darkly, explaining my thesis to myself as though I am a particularly stupid child. Once I am heartily sick of that, I can usually sit down and it’s as easy as taking dictation from myself.

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