Dealing with Writer’s Block Part 3 of 4: What I’ve Learned and Generated in Response Over the Past 5 Years

(. . . discussion is continued from the previous post)

[4] Generative Writing or Freewriting? (NOTE: For Me the Former BLOCKS Writer’s Block and the Latter Just EXACERBATES Writer’s Block. You?)

Freewriting helps a lot of people.

I am not one of those people.

However, I tried it because I was “blocked” and people swore by freewriting and told me I was the blame for still being blocked since I refused to freewrite.

I have since learned that it is not for lack of freewriting but for lack of prewriting that I get blocked. I mean, if all it took was freewriting . . . Heck! I’d NEVER be blocked! Ever! Give me a topic and oh, I can frewrite about it! LOL! That’s not the solution for me.

But, even though I knew very clearly and viscerally from experience that freewriting harms more than helps me, I tried it for a major deadline. Because of what people said: “Z, you WANT to be stuck since you refuse to freewrite your way out of this.” This “guilted” me. So I freewrote. And freewrote more when that didn’t resolve things. And freewrote some more in efforts to keep trying and “stay the course.”

Argh. Why did I go against my own mind?!?!! Isn’t the saying “To thine own self be true”? What a mess for me. I ended up with random, unclear smatterings and smatterings of writing. Hidden somewhere within some of these freewriting documents were really, good, needed paragraphs (although needed precisely for WHAT and precisely WHERE in the draft I couldn’t say) amid mostly un-usable paragraphs. These good paragraphs were nested somewhere within 10 to 20 different Word files or Scrivener text files (within one Scrivener file).

Ultimately, my trying to parse through it all, relocate the good paragraphs, and then put it together in some kind of coherent way became a huge, distracting task. I majored in freewrite reading and copying and pasting and minored in draft production. ūüė¶ Boo!

Instead of freewriting, what works for me is sketch writing, and if need be generative writing.¬†You can read about sketch writing here.¬†Generative writing is a mode of writing which I view as similar to freewriting but more targeted. Boice here writes about generative writing and spontaneous writing. I share the gist of how I do generative writing in this post. It’s my own tweak of my merge of different generative writing strategies.

[5] The Role of Prewriting (for Me)

I can’t do academic writing if I haven’t

  1. read (physical copies/books or in digital copies in Mendeley or Citavi),
  2. taken notes (perhaps a tiny amount of preliminary note taking in Mendeley, but otherwise in a toggle-able Docear mind map at early stages and at later stages in Citavi all the way . . . because it affords every step of Dr. Single’s method as explained in the video and book linked below),
  3. annotated PDFs and books (early stages in Mendeley and later stages in Citavi. . . might copy and paste from Citavi into Docear if I need to back up and restructure and rethink),
  4. excerpted quotes from PDFs and books (Citavi),
  5. began to group my notes, quotes, annotations, etc. into topics and subjects, etc. (Citavi, Docear)
  6. Created an outline that does not function like a prison guard (i.e., that I view somewhat flexibly): Docear mind map which exports to MS Word, Scrivener, Citavi, PDF, etc.

NOTE 1: In part 4 of this post series, I include links to my videos or posts about some of these resources.

NOTE 2:¬†This book of Single’s is just about worth its weight in gold¬†regarding how helpful it is in informing academic writers on how to do prewriting that leads to WRITING. Dr. Single shares much helpful advice here: http://www.insidehighered.com/users/peg-boyle-single. The video below gives you a glimpse of what Dr. Single’s book covers. The book is SO clarifying and will have you on your merry, productive, thesis-writing way!

(discussion is continued in the next post . . .)

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