Its been a really chronic case of writer’s block.

The last few months of last year involved some intense and highly personalised writing – having to define my research project and shape it into a particular piece of writing. A month of fraught stuckness around late November turned into several weeks of utter paralysis. Usually my blog helps me get out of writer’s block – this time it got caught up in the consequences of a particularly bad case.

A few weeks back home in the UK studiously avoiding doing any work at all, and more importantly not feeling guilty about it, has helped a lot. The last week since the holidays ended has been refreshingly productive after so long feeling useless. I hope to be able to get some blogs out too, once the latest draft of this document is finished this week.

Writer’s block is a strange thing. Its not the words that are the problem, but the act of writing as a means of arranging thoughts. I imagine my thoughts to be like clouds of sticks, each one pointing in the wrong direction. I know they should all fit together, somehow, and that the structure they create will be a strong and sensible one. But each time I look at a handful of sticks and get them all to align, the others on my peripheral vision start to shift and spin in all directions again. I turn to them, and the ones under my fingers start to move out of shape. Ideas spin in all directions, as I dash backwards and forwards trying to solve first one problem then the next. Trying to grasp onto so many different thoughts at once and bring them all together is difficult, even when I know that in the finished arrangement, they theoretically all fit perfectly.

A book I read recently on overcoming problems with writing in the social sciences talked about the different rituals people create for themselves to be able to write. Like, having to clean the whole house first, or only being able to write the first draft in red felt tip pen, or having to be sitting at a particular desk in a library. Most people seem to find their rituals silly, in a rational sense, but still can’t live without them. Despite doing all my note taking and reading on my laptop, when I get really stuck in my ideas I have to start writing my notes in pencil on the back of scrap paper. I’ve no idea why, that’s just the way it is. Modern day superstitions.

Right now my desk is strewn with piles of pencil scribbled scrap paper, the ideas are finally beginning to align, and I feel some relief for the first time in almost two months. Hopefully these virtual pages will be back to their normal spluttering self soon, and I’ll be able to give Jim that long over due guest blog that has been on my guilt list for a while. What could be a more appropriate way to end a blog-drought than with a blog about not being able to write?

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