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Academic writers cannot get writer’s block

At least, that’s what Paul J. Silvia, author of How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing claims. I’m inclined to believe him. Writer’s block seems bogus for us.

I’ve been reading books on writing while taking breaks from my ever-growing dissertation. Today I read a little of the Howard Becker Gem Writing for Social Scientists: How to Start and Finish Your Thesis, Book, or Article and most of Silvia’s book. Here are a couple gems from Silvia’s book:

Academic writers cannot get writer’s block. Don’t confuse yourself with your friends teaching creative writing in the fine arts department. You’re not crafting a deep narrative or composing metaphors that expose mysteries of the human heart. The subtlety of your analysis of variance will not move readers to tears, although the tediousness of it might…Novelists and poets are the landscape artists and portrait painters; academic writers are the people with big paint sprayers who repaint your basement. (p. 45)

and

Like their dislike of jocks and the yearbook club, many writers’ distrust of semicolons is a prejudice from high school. … While you’re rebuilding your relationship with the semicolon, reach out and make a new friend — the dash. Good writers are addicted to dashes. (p. 67-68)

I’m proud to say that I a) do not have writer’s block and b) use both semicolons and dashes often and appropriately. I have trouble sticking to a writing schedule as Silvia (and many, many other writing guide authors) recommend, but at least I’ve mastered the dash.


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