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Dealing with writer's block

Anyone can face writer’s block one time or another. In this talk I explain the difference between writer and editor mentality and present a framework to analyse the writing process. With awareness of the writing stages I believe we can avoid procrastination. Presentation at Insight Reading Group 01/11/2017

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Dealing with Writer’s
Block
Bianca Pereira
01/11/2017
Why Bother?
- Research and PhD are all about written communication.
Why Bother?
- Research and PhD are all about written communication.
- Even so, writing is relegated for the last moment (the “deadline”)
Why Bother?
- Research and PhD are all about written communication.
- Even so, writing is relegated for the last moment (the “deadline”)
- We assume we know how to write
Why Bother?
- Research and PhD are all about written communication.
- Even so, writing is relegated for the last moment (the “deadline”)
- We assume we know how to write, but the fact is… we get stuck! And..
We Procrastinate
- “Acquiring more information”
(Reading, reading, reading..)
- Reading E-mails
- Checking Social Media
- Going for coffee/toilet/water each
5 minutes
- Cleaning the house

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Dealing with writer's block

  • 2. Why Bother? - Research and PhD are all about written communication.
  • 3. Why Bother? - Research and PhD are all about written communication. - Even so, writing is relegated for the last moment (the “deadline”)
  • 4. Why Bother? - Research and PhD are all about written communication. - Even so, writing is relegated for the last moment (the “deadline”) - We assume we know how to write
  • 5. Why Bother? - Research and PhD are all about written communication. - Even so, writing is relegated for the last moment (the “deadline”) - We assume we know how to write, but the fact is… we get stuck! And..
  • 6. We Procrastinate - “Acquiring more information” (Reading, reading, reading..) - Reading E-mails - Checking Social Media - Going for coffee/toilet/water each 5 minutes - Cleaning the house
  • 7. We Procrastinate “The most common negative emotion I have witnessed is anxiety (...) The most common behavioral manifestation is procrastination, when students avoid their dissertation work as a way to avoid the unpleasant thoughts and feelings associated with doing the work” (Alison B. Miller 2008)
  • 8. So, again, why bother?
  • 9. Outline 1. Writing/Editing Mentality 2. Exercise 3. Types of Writer's Block: a. I have many things in my mind but do not know how to start (blank page). b. I do not know what I want to say. c. I have things written, but it does not make any sense (or "it is rubbish"). d. I write for a day but cannot produce more than just a paragraph. e. I have things written, but it is not credible (or "it is not good enough") 4. Academic Writing Month Challenge
  • 10. Writing Mentality - Creative - Free - Thinking through Writing
  • 11. Editing Mentality - Judge - Evaluative - Measurement of Quality
  • 12. When both mentalities collapse.. “What is the hardest part of writing?” I ask on the first day of class. “Getting started,” someone offers, groaning. “No, it is not getting started,” a voice in the back corrects. “It’s keeping on once you get started. I can always write a sentence or two - but then I get stuck.” “Why?” I ask. “I don’t know. I’m writing along, and all of a sudden I realize how awful it is, and I tear it up. Then I start over again, and after two sentences, the same thing happens.” (Betty Flowers, 1981)
  • 13. Exercise Open an empty document. Choose a topic Just write everything that comes to mind. It is forbidden to erase anything (even typos).
  • 14. Takeaway Choose your mentality at each given time. “When you have large, ambiguously defined dissertation goals, you are more apt to feel overwhelmed and struggle to figure out where to begin and how to systematically tackle the work at hand (...) It is not clear how to direct your energy, and consequently much of your energy gets used up trying to figure out what to do instead of actually doing it.” (Alison B. Miller 2008)
  • 15. 4 stages of Writing 1. Mad Man 2. Architect 3. Carpenter4. Judge
  • 16. The Mad Man - Creative - Free thinking - Collect notes - Identify interesting examples - Research Journal - Spider Diagrams/ Mind Mapping Writing is used as a means to generate ideas, summarise other people’s ideas, explain what is understood.
  • 17. The Architect - Give structure. - Find connections between concepts. - Create clusters of examples, concepts and notes. - Create structures/outlines. Writing is used to explain the connection between things.
  • 18. The Carpenter - Build the document. - Choose what goes into a paragraph. - Include references and examples. Writing is used to convert loose notes into meaningful paragraphs using the ideas and concepts generated by the “Mad Man” within the structure identified by the “Architect”.
  • 19. The Judge - Evaluate the quality of the document. - Decide if the argument is coherent. - Decide if the words are the best choice. - Identify what is missing, out of place or low quality. Evaluates the writing
  • 20. It is a whole team in a single person! 1. Mad Man 2. Architect 3. Carpenter4. Judge
  • 21. Types of Writer’s Block Which stage generates each block? a) I have many things in my mind but do not know how to start (blank page). b) I do not know what I want to say. c) I have things written, but it does not make any sense (or "it is rubbish"). d) I write for a day but cannot produce more than just a paragraph. e) I have things written, but it is not credible (or "it is not good enough")
  • 22. Types of Writer’s Block Which stage generates each block? a) I have many things in my mind but do not know how to start (blank page). Mad Man b) I do not know what I want to say. Mad Man c) I have things written, but it does not make any sense (or "it is rubbish"). Architect d) I write for a day but cannot produce more than just a paragraph. Using Judge when should be using Mad Man or Carpenter e) I have things written, but it is not credible (or "it is not good enough") Mad Man? Architect? Builder? The Judge should decide.
  • 24. Academic Writing Month Challenge THE GOAL THE ENEMY THE PATH
  • 25. Academic Writing Month Challenge THE GOAL THE ENEMY THE PATH Ain’t I so cute? Want to see some cat videos?
  • 26. Here is the plan! 1. Choose your personal goal. 2. Join a group of fellow adventurers. 3. Travel together during November 2017. 4. Have fun!
  • 27. Choose your personal Goal Word-Driven - X words/day Time-Driven - X minutes/day Project-Driven - Paper - Thesis Chapter - Next GRC’s report [Mini Viva?] - Blog posts - Keep a research journal for 30 days
  • 28. Join a group of fellow adventurers Insight AcWriMo Group (contact me) Twitter #AcWriMo SOURCE:The Gamers Movie
  • 29. Travel together during November 2017 Track your progress: http://www.phd2published.com/tools/the-phdometer-3-0/ Report your progress - Our internal Group - #AcWriMo (feel free to tag me @bianca_oli_per) Share problem/solutions.
  • 30. Travel together during November 2017 Track your progress: http://www.phd2published.com/tools/the-phdometer-3-0/ Report your progress - Our internal Group - #AcWriMo (feel free to tag me @bianca_oli_per) Share problem/solutions. Have you seen the latest of Trump? It is cold, isn’t it? You should go for some hot chocolate! Hey! Remember you need to organise your next vacation. Have you called your mom recently? Better leave her a message! Look! 120 methods to improve your writing! Better read that!
  • 31. PhD and Research are all about writing. Getting stuck at writing is painful and leads to procrastination. Awareness of writing stages relieves the pain. Knowing is not enough. We need to put our knowledge at test!
  • 32. Dealing with Writer’s Block Bianca Pereira @bianca_oli_per bianca.pereira@insight-centre.org
  • 33. Personal Method 1. Free Writing 2. Extract key concept of each paragraph 3. Build argument based on key concepts 4. Use it as outline 5. Verify what is missing 6. Write the document 7. Review