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Serious Case of Writer’s Block

Wow. I officially have the worst case of writer’s block that I have ever, *EVER* had. I have about 26 pages to write, and I have, at this precise moment, 5 pages written. And those 5 pages are very rough. I have been telling my students all semester that the best way to overcome writer’s block is just to start typing, to get any part of the ideas floating around in your head down on paper, so I thought it best if I take my own advice. That advice was based wholly on Peter Elbow’s article that opened my eyes to the ephemeral quality of writing that must be exploited for writers. The idea is that the paper can be a vessel (it is in my mind, much like Dumbledore’s pensieve, if you are familiar with the Harry Potter series–if you aren’t don’t tell me that. I’m an HP freak.) to hold ideas. As the paper holds those ideas, your mind is free to see connections in them and the other thoughts floating around in your head that you could not grasp onto when the ideas that you previously had in your head and are now on paper were using up your brain’s processing power.

I don’t know if that makes sense to even myself. I got a little lost in the analogies there towards the end. You know, I actually got defensive while having lunch with MEH the other day! She said that she has another friend who is more of a HP fanatic than I am. I haven’t read the books (at least 1-4) six times through, front cover to back, to be ousted as the largest fan that anyone knows. (I have read #5 three times now, and poor #6 only once (in my defense, a friend borrowed it about three weeks after it was released and hasn’t returned it, so even IF I didn’t have 26 gazillion pages to write, I couldn’t read it if I wanted to.) *sigh* It is very possible that Mario (or was it Luigi?) actually is a bigger HP fan than I am, but I just cannot admit it without a show down at high noon! This is serious stuff, folks!

Some of my fellow TAs have 2 1/2 times the number of pages to write that I do, and they are working ever so diligently. I, however, am blocked. I think partially because I am insecure about my topic and unsure as to whether or not it will be sufficient for the assignment, but also partially because I am easily distracted whenever I sit down at the computer. Ack. I must pull myself together! Any suggestions are welcome.

With that in mind, I will put some quotes from the article that I am basing my 620 paper on, Peter Elbow’s “The Shifting Relationships Between Speech and Writing.” I’m trying to apply Elbow’s ideas (which were meant for a native English speaking composition classroom) to an ESL classroom. (N.b. All emphasis is Elbow’s.)

“It feels very different to put down words not as commitment but as trial, or as Barthes and some of the deconstructionists say, jouissance, or the free play of language and consciousness. Thinking is enriched. Writing in this mode can produce an immersion in discourse itself that doesn’t occur when we sit and think–an immersion in language that can entice us into ideas and perceptions we could not get by planning. (287)

“Exploring the ephemeral quality of writing is often a matter of exploiting chaos and incoherence.

“Most people stop writing and don’t resume writing till they have figured out what they want to say. This feels like a reasonable and normal way to behave, but notice the assumption it reveals: that the function of writing is to record what we have already decided–not to figure out whether we believe it. If we were speaking, we would be much more likely to speak the train of thought as it comes to mind even thought we’re not sure of our final opinion–as a way of making up our minds. It is almost as thought we fear, as we write, that someone might at any moment swoop down and read what we have just written and see that it is
rubbish. (287)

Elbow, Peter. “The Shifting Relationships between Speech and Writing.” College Composition and Communication. 36 (1985): 283-303. MLA International Bibliography. EBSCOhost. 20 Oct 2005. .

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