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A theory of writer's block

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Guest post by Anna Welpinghus, Technical University Dortmund Over the last years, I have occasionally been struggling with writer’s block. It looks like this: I have an unfinished manuscript that I cannot bring myself to complete. When I work on it, I look at one of the many unfinished sections, write half a paragraph – maybe half a sentence, and that is all. I do not know how to proceed. At some point this condition stirred my intellectual curiosity. I was puzzled by the question, which ability I am lacking when I experience writer’s block. After all, I do know the language of my paper and I know how papers in my disciple are supposed to look like. I know the subject matter of my paper well enough. I am sufficiently motivated to get to my desk and start working on the manuscript. Why is it that I cannot write? In this blog post, I will present my tentative answer to this question. In other words, I propose a theory of writer’s block. While its vantage point is deeply personal, namely my own experience, I think that the theory resonates with many others. I won’t claim that this holds for all writer’s blocks, however. Most probably there are other kinds of writer’s block. I leave open how widely applicable my theory is. The theory is in its early stages of development and I welcome feedback. Other treatments of writer’s block that focus on academic writing often deal with fairly course-grained dysfunctions concerning writing: for instance, disenabling habits (e.g. Silvia 2007) or paralyzing attitudes towards oneself as an academic (e.g. Valian 1977). Although Valian and Silvia take different vantage points, some of the remedies they suggest are similar: namely to schedule regular time for writing and stick to that schedule. Silvia has detailed suggestions on how to do so. Valian also suggests to get rid of paralyzing attitudes towards oneself and one’s work. In contrast, Silvia does not recommend any soul-searching. I recommend both texts, especially for anyone who. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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