Monday, August 01, 2005

On writers block and procrastination

For the past several weeks I´ve been trying to write a paper. Weeks, not hours as it should be, but weeks. A large part of the problem is I don´t quite believe that what I want to publish is actually good enough for publication. It´s an in between step, a little technique to try and make things a bit faster and easier. Its nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering. Hell, it not even interesting enough to stop people yawning.
But I have to do it. I need the paper. My boss needs the paper. It´ll probably get accepted for publication, and then it doesn´t matter right?
So why am I having so much trouble doing it? It´s nothing, a few words, a couple of pictures, a list of references.


When I was in high school I´d have a hell of a time trying to write anything that was called an ESSAY. Give me an article, a report, a story, WHATEVER and I´d be there, pen scratching, illegible squiggles screaming across the page on any topic you gave me. But an Essay? Nope. Couldn´t do it. Froze. Nothing frightened me more than my Year 9 English teacher starting a sentance with "This week we´ll be writing an essay on......"
And why? It took me many years to work out that what I was frightened of was the giving of an opinion that an essay required. The analysis of a piece of writing, a period in time, a politcal movement, all of which required that I at some point develop an opinion on it and argue it. And I couldn´t do it. Because I could be wrong. I was a teenager for heaven´s sake - how could I analyze Shakespeare? A million plus people had done it before me, with more knowledge than I - what on earth was my opinion worth? A political opinion? Like, in Australia? Like, really?
And not only that, but the opinion had to be argued out as if it had solid background evidence for it instead of little squiggles of words across a page. I could never do it. My entire argument for an opinion I had on a book would come down to BECAUSE I LIKED IT (or not), and that holds little sway in the world of English essays. I couldn´t write pages on something I felt I could say in four words. The padding would never come. It was superfluous rubbish that annoyed me and I couldn´t see the point of. It was a personal opinion, based on my feelings. What on earth did I need other peoples personal opinions backing up mine for?
That´s probably why I´ve always felt so at home in science. Why lab reports never phased me. They are cold, hard facts. Perhaps unclear, perhaps opening more questions than answers, but always someting solid. Something real. Something testable. Not an opinion which could disappear when I grow up, when my experiences change me and my attitude to something. Opinions are malleable, they´re shaped by the surrounding environment, by your personal history, by peer pressure and the culture you are in. They´re a puff of hot air.
Give me science. Give me facts. Give me clear de-bullshitted writing.

Give me a cup of tea and a bikkie, my next writing break´s due.

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