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

(. . . continued from the previous post)

[6] The Urgent, Important Priority of Maintaining Mental, Digital, and Physical Organization (Because for Me Even the Slightest Bit of Chaos Can Induce Writer’s Block!)

I’m looking at my definition of writer’s block again:

Writer’s block is the lack of writing generation that results when a person attempts to write or force writing when either (1) he or she has not done sufficient prewriting, (2) he or she cannot focus on the ONE sentence or paragraph or section that can be written, or when (3) he or she has yet to consciously or subconsciously fully buy in to the idea that NOW is the time to get the writing down.

Even if I have done sufficient prewriting . . . even if my mind is peacefully processing only the current item of focus so that my mind is not too overwhelmed with ideas and information . . . even if I am task-focused (i.e., have the willpower AND the motivation) . . . if I can’t find, access, or display my prewriting content (outlines, notes, annotations, quotes, etc.) fully or fluidly or in a way that doesn’t interrupt my flow of thought during writing . . . I am, for all intents and purposes, WRITING BLOCKED.

Thankfully, over the years I have continuously improved my personal writing methodology along with the level of sync/seamlessness between the tools I use for each component of my personal writing methodology.

It is flexible: When I need to go vocal, I can without creating files to lose all over my computer and thus getting unorganized. Instead I can capture what I vocalize, juxtapose the audio recording with what I’m writing, and USE it all. Also, when I need to go COMPLETELY physical and get out of the computer, I can do so in such a way that keeps things in my visual field, refreshes me, gets the writing flowing, and fits into my overall outline.

Some of the ways I “go physical” include working on my make-shift thesis research board (see photo gallery below), in my Livescribe pen and notebook, in my thesis binder, or via a method of outlining-and-writing-on-physical-note cards discussed here with photos here. I have learned over time how to capture my physical work in ways that can EASILY be organized and incorporated into my digital work.

That brings me to the conclusion 🙂 . . .

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[7] CONCLUSION: My Methodology, Physical and Digital Tools, and Workflow

I’ve made some pretty significant tweaks to my writing methodology and workflow since I last did an update here at the blog. The reason for the major changes? I have rediscovered MS OneNote. Oh, it is GLORIOUS once you sync the web and desktop apps and start using some of its features that allow you to

  • store your PHYSICAL work digitally in an ORGANIZED way without having to work hard to do so,
  • drag and drop from other applications,
  • print a website or PDF directly to OneNote via the OneNote printer that installs with OneNote,
  • open OneNote in your handwriting-recognizing tablet if you have one (I don’t yet but my physically-created yet digital Livescribe pencasts such as this one sync to OneNote).

WARNING: If you invest in a Livescribe pen, do your research VERY carefully. I have an older model that allows me to tap on the physical paper where I’ve handwritten notes and hear playback of audio notes I’ve recorded. The new Livescribe 3 does not permit this. It has other features for audio playback. Also, some Livescribe pen models were designed with Evernote in mind, some with iPad in mind, etc. Some only work over Wi-Fi, etc. There are MANY complaints at the website over these differences from folks who purchased “the wrong” pen given the technology or apps they own or prefer. I love my pen but knew precisely what I was getting and what I wasn’t getting, and I knew exactly how I could get it to fit into my workflow. In the future I will use a stylus with a digital tablet and likely phase Livescribe out of my workflow, though I have liked that the Livescribe pen and notebook allow me to work apart from a computer, tablet, and the ever-distracting Internet.

I don’t have the time free now to fully document my updated writing methodology and workflow in light of MS OneNote. Perhaps sooner than later I’ll be able to make a short, unscripted video just so some components of the methodology and workflow can be seen. It might inspire ideas for your own. Of course, everyone’s writing methodology and workflow are necessarily personalized and my methods might not help you at all. In the meanwhile, here’s the overview:

  1. MS OneNote: Organize writing as a writing PROJECT into an easy-to-keep, organized, digital notebook that mirrors the structure of a physical notebook. Do MS OneNote screen captures, print websites to MS OneNote, print PDFs to MS OneNote for annotation, collect all your musings and ideas and considerations and inspirations and strategies . . . etc. Keep to do lists. Make video and audio annotations. Etc.
  2. Mendeley: Organize PDFs into folders. Tag articles (with tags such as “was read on date ___,” “was printed on date ___,” etc.). Add keywords to articles (“methodology,” “content analysis,” “research question 1,” etc.). Do deep, deep searches down into the text of your PDF collection to quickly re-identify articles that you often vaguely remember. Do first-pass reading and do light note-taking and annotating. Your PDF stays clean. Your notes and annotations are searchable. Organization of notes, however, is not the best . . .
  3. . . . Enter Citavi. I’ve said much about it here at the blog. I believe this is the most comprehensive Citavi video I’ve made. Readers can enter “Citavi” in the search box at the top of the blog to pull up videos and discussion of Citavi.
  4. Docear for going from the concepts about which you’re reading to an outline (I just ignore the not-so-pretty interface in Docear). Toggle back-and-forth between a concept map display and a vertical outline display of the same content. This jolts ideas and thoughts and hierarchy. Export as mind map and import into Scrivener, Citavi, MS Word, XMind, etc. as you need.
  5. XMind: Please see previous discussion of Xmind in this four-part post.
  6. Scrivener: Planning of writing, sketching of writing (see this Carlis document), etc. Between:
    1. the snap shot (versioning) feature,
    2. the project notes panel which can hold your research question and abstract so you can always display it near your writing,
    3. the near-your-writing document notes panel,
    4. the near-your-writing synopsis card,
    5. the ability to create a Scrivener file as template that you use to create brainstorm, raw draft, first draft, and final draft versions using the same outline (Scrivener template file),
    6. etc.,
      there’s LOTS of mental and logical support for writing within Scrivener.
  7. Pencil and note card to implement this strategy or Livescribe pen and notebook in order to write by hand as prudent or helpful.
  8. MS Word for first drafting, with Citavi open within containing your outline and all your notes, quotes, thoughts, images, etc. Import Scrivener sections into MS Word as desired. Citavi handles citations and bibliography-building JUST BEAUTIFULLY.

The remaining key players in my work flow include Snagit, Snagit Editor, and now Watership Planner (which has a medium-level learning curve, which I asked for an academic discount, and which surpasses Liquid Planner for personal project management, IMO).

Well, I would love to hear of how you define and deal (or have dealt) with writer’s block, so please add your comments. For instance, I never benefited from EverNote by which many people swear! It’s MS OneNote all the way for me. Do you find EverNote very good or even indispensable? How are you using it? Also, how do you smooth things between working physically and digitally? Do you go all physical largely until it’s time to draft? Do you go all digital? Or have you found tools that help you marry your physical and digital work?

Inquiring minds want to know! 😀

Take care and godspeed with your current endeavors!

Many blessings,

Mickey

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