This week’s episode is about overcoming the tortures of writer’s block. So often students avoid starting a paper because of the pain associated with writing that first sentence, but writing doesn’t have to be so terrible. In fact, in many cases, it can be fun. It is an artform after all. Today we’ll be talking about how to make writing enjoyable, and even playful.
This week’s guest is Davood Gozli, PFAU Academic Writing editor and coach, specializing in Psychology. Davood has over seven years of university-level teaching experience, a BSc from Trent University, and PhD in Psychology from the University of Toronto. He has published a book and dozens of peer-reviewed academic articles—including several articles co-authored with students—and has helped hundreds of students feel more comfortable about writing. Most notably, he believes in the power of writing as a personal practice that can excite, enliven, and empower us.
What is it like writing a book? Were there moments you were stuck? How did you overcome them?
My book started out as a journal article that was rejected by several journals. I was passionate about the idea, but I still got stuck. I found that being separated from the writing project for a couple weeks would throw me off and make it harder to go back. Rhythm is very important. Showing up everyday in small ways is key. Touchbase with your writing project in a consistent and predictable way everyday. By maintaining this rhythm, even my body would start to feel like writing.
I also realized that writing is a way of living. Once you start setting up a writing routine, you notice that other parts of your life need to change as well. For instance, I realized that I needed to go to bed early enough to get enough sleep to get up and write. I also needed to become more organized by setting a timer and only letting myself write for an hour before getting onto other things.
Why do you think we struggle with writer’s block?
There are several reasons why someone would struggle with writer’s block. As I said, straying from one’s routine can cause a blockage, and of course, not taking care of one’s self and being unwell. However, I think the biggest blockage is expectations. Putting too much pressure on one’s self and worrying can block the creative flow. It is important to set manageable goals and stick to them.
For students who struggle with writing the first sentence of the paper, what tips would you give them?
There are a few things that can help one get over the anxiety of writing that first sentence:
Take breaks when you can’t focus
Set a minimum daily achievement (ie. 300 words)
Set realistic expectations. Focus on writing clearly and concisely. Imagine you are writing to a friend.
Write what you can. Don’t worry about making it perfect. You now have some raw material. Then, ask yourself what makes it bad and use it to improve upon it.
Write about what you want to write about. You want to write about memory, so you write about what you want to write about later. It is like a plan/list of ideas. It creates a useful distance that can ease you into the writing process.
Recommended Books and Resources
Thank you, Davood, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers!
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