Friday, September 12, 2008

The Academic Art of Procrastination

I was reading about writer's block yesterday in The Independent. This is something that strikes all writers, even the writers of essays, theses and... say... welcome speeches for a symposium that's coming up in less than a week.

This morning I caught myself claiming to be searching for inspiration while watching episodes of Buffy and knitting a sock. Actually, sometimes this tactic works. And even if I don't have a speech to show for it, at least I have part of a sock... and it's a pretty wild looking sock, don't you think? It's made from yarn that's known as Socks That Rock.

Seriously, the only real way to defeat writer's block is the less than appealing 'sit down and actually start writing.' Everyone wishes there were an online store selling inspiration, but there isn't. You just have to sit and try out different combinations of words until you find a combination that works. There's a tip there, too, in that often the first few combinations won't work and you'll have to start all over again. Don't be afraid of that. It's part of the process and the best writing often comes from a fertile bed of composted combinations-that-didn't-work.

One of the biggest mistakes I think students make is to go with the first combination that comes to them. Is there a fear of wasting words by deleting them? Don't worry, you can recycle them into a better piece of writing.

Speaking of recycling, it's time for me to go back to my half-written speech and do a bit of composting myself. It's just not working as is. It's time to just sit down and start trying out some new combinations.

Forgive mangled metaphors.

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