Inconstant Inspiration

In principle, it seems like such a straightforward plan. Write lots of words, subdivided into a few chapters. Include diagrams and citations to strengthen those words. Show data in tables and figures. Write more words about the data. Continue till you have a thesis…

Except it seems it isn’t quite as simple as it could be. I appear to be suffering from a case of writer’s block, and I’ve been trying to figure out why. As true as it is, that you really need to throw the words onto the page and then manipulate them later, I’ve come to realise that the starting point can be important too. A sculptor can work with any piece of stone, but poor quality marble will result in a poor quality statue, irrespective of how skillful the sculptor. And none of my words feel like a good piece of marble right now. Frankly, they’ve been feeling more like shale. As with anything which is “all in your head”, writer’s block isn’t often taken seriously. At least, not by anyone who isn’t a writer. Interestingly, there’s some amount of actual psychology behind it. Wikipedia, citing this article, says the following;

It has been suggested that Writer’s Block is more than just a mentality. Under stress, a human brain will “shift control from the cerebral cortex to the limbic system”. The limbic system is associated with the instinctual processes, such as “fight or flight” response. Because the person is primarily thinking in instinctual (learned) behaviors, creative processes are hindered. The person is often unaware of the change, which may lead them to believe they are creatively “blocked”.

Interesting, interesting. So I need to de-stress in order to make my brain more cerebral and less limbic. Unfortunately, I’m not really in any position to just take some time out right now, as much as I could do with it. Sadly, just the fact that I can say that seems to imply how much I need it. When you spend too much time getting used to how much you have to do, it wears you down, I suppose. I’m under a lot of stress in virtually every aspect of my life, pretty much constantly. I never have any moments at all anymore which don’t have a nagging thought in the back of my head about something I should be doing or should have done or need to do. It’s constant now, and it gnaws at the inside of my head.

So all I can really do is try to take more time out for myself to just be myself. Miniature escapist interludes. Enjoy a few free thoughts. Contemplate.

Space to breathe…

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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8 Responses to Inconstant Inspiration

  1. invaderxan says:

    Public outcry. I’m not bloody surprised! :P
    And thanks for the link. History of things like this always makes for interesting reading…

  2. tatjna says:

    It’s nothing very exciting, just an essay about the social construction of licit/illicit and use/misuse in the context of drugs.
    Coffee’s a good example to start with because it’s ubiquitous but also has the dubious honour of being the first psychoactive substance to be banned by a western state. It lasted 8 days until public outcry made Charles withdraw it.
    Here’s a short thing I wrote a year or so ago which contains more info about the coffee ban and compares it with the prohibition of LSD.

  3. invaderxan says:

    Re: writers block
    That, my friend, is pure unadulterated genius!

  4. invaderxan says:

    Re: Your blog
    Thank you!
    And I’m not sure, but I think I may already be following that group…

  5. invaderxan says:

    Goofing off is, it would seem, highly underrated. So I guess I did… And then I managed to essentially finish writing a chapter. Woo!
    And I’m rather fascinated by whatever that line is a part of… Might I enquire as to what you’re writing? :)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Your blog
    Thank god for scientists who can write like you! I’m sure you’ll get over your writer’s block assuming you haven’t already. I’d recommend you follow “I fucking love science” on Facebook – you will have more than enough inspirational material there and dare I say a ton more folks like you. I also think you should forward some of your material to them – you’d be surprised at how many articulate and humorous science geeks are out there. Or maybe you won’t be but at least you’ll be home. Best of luck!

  7. tatjna says:

    I’ve a number of friends who’ve done this thing you’re doing (in their own way) and what they all have in common is what you’ve just described. However, none of them suffered unduly through taking a day or even several days off trying to put words on paper to goof off.
    From my own experience (of having to churn out academic writing on a regular basis for the last five years), it’s when I’m goofing off that the line that starts the flow tends to pop up.
    Today’s line, which was formulated when I woke up but crystallised by your picture, is “Just before Christmas in 1675, King Charles II of England banned coffee. It is possibly the first banning of a mind-altering substance in western history.”
    So I reckon goof off for a bit. In case that wasn’t clear.

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