Writer’s Block: Scraping the Pumpkin

Since the requirements can seem very flexible and open at WISR, a new student can become lost and want some structure.  Since writing is essential for completing a degree, writer’s block can be frustrating.  One way to get through it is to just plunk down whatever comes to mind, then fill in details later as you gather them.  Interviewing may give you some information to write down.  Find a topic and compare and contrast different what different people say and enter your thoughts into the discussion. By interviewing people or other research, you can build a better picture of your subject.  This is how knowledge can be built or grown.

Once you have something written, read it over and make formatting and clarification edits as well as add material or subtract what is redundant.  You might have a faculty member, another student, or a friend or family member read it and see what they think.

If you can’t think of what to write, write about what you want to write.  Or write a story about something you’ve experienced or observed.  Think of the nuances of that story and what other ideas or stories the things that come up in that story lead you to.

During the first part of my WISR PhD program I was frustrated as I wasn’t producing a lot of written material which is key for getting through one’s WISR program!  I thought of myself during this period of time as a pumpkin filling up with knowledge (and take notes, mental and written).  Then when it came to write, I thought of that as time for scraping the insides of the pumpkin.  Once you start writing, you have to reread and rewrite.  WISR alumnus William Duma, who came to the US as an exiled journalist from South Africa, once gave a writing class and told us to reread everything 4 times.  For someone who rereads at least 2 times, it’s a good reminder that more is better!

I recently found a good guide to Writing and Research called Rules for Thumb for Research by Jay Silverman, Elaine Hughes and Diana Roberts Wienbroer.  It is available at WISR and also online.

To be continued….

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