Monday, October 22, 2012

On dissertating

I realized that I feel stuck at two points in my writing process. The first one is what I like to call blank page anxiety (I'm sure there is a cool Latin name for it) and the second one is a form of post partum anxiety. To be more specific, I have difficulty in putting down the first words for a section or a paper (sometimes it takes me days and in this particular case I could not write anything this weekend) and I also find it very difficult to let go of a section and stop revising it if I do not have a deadline for it. As you can guess, I was stuck in the vortex of letting go of a section and beginning a new one. I'm pretty convinced that there are some black holes hiding between sections. 

Anyway, I proudly announce that I managed to put the first words for the new section on paper today and here is how I did it.
Actually it was an accidental discovery, a discovery nevertheless. In case you have the same problem I thought this might help you too. So here is what helped me today and I should note this "procedure" was tested only to overcome the anxiety and break the inertia, not for the serious writing part, though some people claim that writing drunk and editing sober is the way to go.

First, open a blank word document or the file you are working on (in my case it was already open behind Firefox). You know I use Google Plus to find cool links related to the topics I'm interested in. So I was Google Plussing (is this even a word?). If you use Google Plus you know that if you look at your feed for 10 minutes or so it is pretty much like watching TV. You scroll down and look at the titles, pictures or comments without actually reading them all but somehow you can still manage to notice something of interest to you. You know your brain goes into a mind fog of some sort. Your brain slows down and goes into an alpha wave state. Yes, that's exactly the state you need for breaking the inertia and overcoming the blank page anxiety. When you start feeling like your mind is drifting, quickly switch to word without thinking and write what comes to your mind. 

If you are like me, you probably keep thinking about what you are going to write while doing other things before you actually start writing so your mind is already on the task. So the issue is not that you do not know what to write but rather it is about breaking this inertia, this anxiety about breaking the silence. I realized that if I write without being too conscious about it I can write more easily. I do not know how this happened today. I did not plan this, I did not think of such a strategy. I was doing being a plusser and then my hands switched windows as if possessed (creepy, huh?) and there I was facing the blank page without seeing a blank page and before I knew it my hands were typing and I stopped after writing more than a page. I swear my body has more wisdom than my mind (You heard me Descartes). 

I don't know. I think our filters are down when our mind drifts like this and it is easier to let the words flow out. I am pretty sure you can do this using things other than Google Plus, like Facebook, Stumble Upon, etc. I might actually test this hypothesis someday by using brainwave entrainment. Well, let me know if this works for you too and I will write when I find the cure for my second problem.

PS. Since I am dissertating, expect more pearls of wisdom on dissertation writing :-) I apologize to people whom this may not concern but from now on there will be more entries on dissertation writing. 

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