Research narratives, writer’s (and reader’s) block, and the perfectionist’s paralysis

I haven’t written anything in a long, and as I do now, I squirm in my chair with acute self-consciousness.

For months I haven’t written a word, even in this blog, which was supposed to be a playground for my ideas because I’m plagued by perfectionism, and it’s time I admitted that.

My writer’s block was never really about running out of ideas, but merely, running out of the courage to work with very disparate feelings and notions, and feeling heavy and weighed down by the associated discordant emotions.

So I became what any reasonable person in this situation would do, just started reading, and ceased writing entirely in order to search for already manufactured thoughts in my mind that were flawless to begin with. I became increasingly self-conscious of going through the process of writing, and holding a million views in my head together, acknowledging doubt and incompleteness and thought I could go on a journey towards cohesion without any recorded bumps in the way. Eventually, I stumbled across the seldom-discussed reader’s block. I was paralyzed.

In short, I was ashamed to be proverbially naked with all the conceptual flaws in the process, even to myself. As if progress and change were to be self-concealing and never spill outside the echo chamber of my own mind.

Needless to say, this is by far the most counterproductive strategy I have ever adopted when it comes to learning. It’s not that my blogging suffered, or that my academic writing suffered, but when I let go of the agency to be able to formulate my own narratives of research and life, however imperfect, I was both figuratively and literally lost in chaos.

Writing isn’t simply about organizing your thoughts, it’s also a marker of where you stand in a transient and abstract space. It is in that space that creators and researchers of all kinds do the most work in, and once I had ceased to check in with myself and my progress in that space through writing, I let go any hope of having a record of my learning experience in the process.

So, I have tentatively promised myself that I’ll write everyday. No matter how bad it is, I will write 5 sentences about my work, everyday — and dear readers, if you are out there, I want you to hold me accountable.

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1 thought on “Research narratives, writer’s (and reader’s) block, and the perfectionist’s paralysis”

  1. Perfectionism paralyses the writing process. It’s something I struggle with also, and it gives rise to bad writing habits. Thanks for sharing this.

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