I have barely even started my masters and I am already plagued by a commonly found enemy in the art of writing – the writer’s block. Hence, I am writing about not being able to write in this ramble… much logic.
At this point, I am lucky as there is not a lot of writing to be done, mainly reading literature to further define a topic and writing screeds and screeds of notes. However, where I am stuck is writing a proposal of what I actually want to do for the next two years. I know what I want to do but boy does it not want to appear on the screen in front of me. So I thought, while I can’t write on my thesis, I will write about how I usually combat this writer’s block to see if it triggers something and maybe it might help any of you if you are similarly afflicted.
Words and Phrases – The tools in the writer’s toolkit
I frequently find that I am repeating the same words and phrases, or I just can’t find the right one, which just stops me right in my writing tracks. So this is what I have found recently that has helped.
For words, I had previously used an online thesaurus as I had often found the Word suggestions lacklustre and I have mainly moved to working in the cloud so a large amount of my writing is through Google Docs or similar. Opening another browser window to search for a word somehow became cumbersome (let alone picking up an actual book) and broke the flow of writing. So I ended up leaving all the jazzing up of my writing to the end so it was a massive editing job and one thing you will learn, I really don’t enjoy the editing process. So I found two things: the first is Grammarly and the second is the three-finger tap activation of the Apple Dictionary. Both of these products mean that as I am writing I can tap on a word and up comes thesaurus suggestions for that word without me having to ever leave the document and loose my train of thought – plus they always seem to have more and more relevant suggestions than Word.
Grammarly is also a spell check and grammar check which I use on all these blog posts as well – I mainly use it when I am working online but there is also the Mac OSX app which I tend to use only to upload documents for a final check and my least favourite thing – editing. I just use the free version but I believe the paid version allows for integration with Word on the PC so that might benefit some of you.
The three-finger activation of the Apple Dictionary has been around for a while but it just gets better and better – this is my go-to for keeping the flow as I am working offline and in Google Docs as Grammarly hasn’t quite got that functionality yet. It also brings up Wikipedia articles, Web videos, anything relevant to that word or phrase selected. There may be an equivalent on other operating systems – have a look because it is beyond useful for finding that word and also keeping the flow of reading if you need a definition of a word in an article, etc.
I am always repeating phrases and someone recently put me onto The University of Manchester Phrasebank which is now available for Kindle as well as PDF for a relatively small cost. It gives hundreds and hundreds of examples of different ways you can phrase particular kinds of statements, like the introduction of a topic, etc.
Inspriation to Write
The things above are just the toolkit to writing, with a full writer’s block often the words and phrases aren’t the problem, it is more the inspiration. I often walk away for a while, do something else, talk to someone about my research who has no clue what I am on about, write on something else. It is up to each person what works for them, hence, this is one of a multitude of blog posts on the topic. Remembering that writing takes time and often that inspiration can’t be forced is hard for me to keep in my mind when I hit these walls or blocks but are an essential lesson in the craft.
Writing is a craft, an art form and takes its time. Do it without fear – and then edit without mercy.