This morning I’m stuck writing in two ways. First, I have a deadline Thursday to turn in a completed draft of a dissertation chapter along with all my other completed dissertation work. I’m over halfway done, and I have three days left to write. Second, I’m beginning to think that my whole plan for the chapter (and maybe for the dissertation) is stupid. Boring. Clear but painful. I can’t get unstuck from having to write, but I can get unstuck so I can write.
Solution #1: Find another (encouraging) reader. My husband (a computer scientist) graciously offered to read what I’ve got so far and to tell me that it was good and that I should keep writing. When having someone read a partial draft, it’s important to specify that you just want a quick read with a thumbs up at the end, and maybe a few comments about what’s working in the draft. This is not the time for critical comments or grammar corrections. So be sure you ask for what you want.
Solution #2: Take a shower. Much research has shown that have a spark of inspiration, the brain must be flooded with detail and then must relax for all the cognition to happen that leads to insight. (This article is a good one on the subject.) So when you get stuck, take a walk, take a shower, do some dishes. Find an activity that takes little concentrated effort, and let your brain do the rest.
These surely aren’t the only options, but they worked for me this morning. My husband thought the draft was the best early draft he’d read of mine, and in the shower I figured out a couple key things I can include that will be a logical next step in the draft.
What do you do when you’re stuck?