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Marcus Arvan

Hi Anna: Thanks for sharing your personal experience and theory!

I think there may be some truth to your idea that the kind of feedback we receive might contribute to writer's block. Earlier in my career (in graduate school and right after), I had difficulty writing because--as you say--feedback from others tends to focus on the negative, not the positive. I think you are probably right that this can give one a debilitating sense of one's own inability to reliably distinguish "The Feeling of Having Said Things Well and the Feeling of Having Said Things Badly."

In my own case, an unexpected solution to this problem was forced on me, so to speak. After my first job (in a large research department), I was hired into a non-TT job at a teaching-intensive institution with very few philosophers. As a result, I didn't *have* anyone to get feedback from--and truth by told, it was an unexpectedly liberating experience. I stopped worrying so much about "The Feeling of Having Said Things Well and the Feeling of Having Said Things Badly", and instead simply started writing things I found interesting in a *way* that I found interesting. In other words, I learned to stop worrying about the aforementioned feelings, and just tried to enjoy what I was writing.

I don't mean to suppose that the same thing will work for everyone--but it may be something to give a try (namely, not getting feedback for a while, just focusing on doing work in a way that you enjoy).

Finally, I also think that a particular writing strategy might help one overcome writers block resulting from the aforementioned feelings. One great thing I learned late in grad school (which basically made the difference in getting my dissertation done) was to *free write* some number of pages each day (say, 3 pages) without any form of editing whatsoever.

My experience is that this strategy is designed to explicitly bracket out "The Feeling of Having Said Things Well and the Feeling of Having Said Things Badly", as it requires one to just *write* and to remind oneself not to worry about saying things well or badly.

Anyway, I'm not sure if you will find any of these tips helpful - but I figured I'd share them just in case you (or anyone else reading) might!

Anna Welpinghus

Hi Marcus,

thanks for your comment and for sharing your experiences.

It makes perfect sense to me that both strategies (not seeking feedback and free writing) can be very helpful in cases of writer's block. As you write, this would be consistent with my model. So far, neither strategy has worked for me, though. (With free writing I either fail to produce any text or it is very far away from any publishable text (in terms of readability, clarity and structure) and the problems occur during editing.) I guess this is something everyone has to try and find out for themselves.


I found this interesting, for while I have had plenty of professional "issues", including issues with writing, writer's block (knock on wood) hasn't been one of them.

Anyway, while I was reading and Anna was describing all the decisions one makes in writing, I thought to myself, "I've never made those decisions!" I mean, I haven't at least even remotely consciously. I always just kind of write, and then go back and edit. Maybe to some degree I make these decisions in the editing process, but even then it is rarely explicit. Idk I guess I'm just kind of a pure intuition writer lol, i.e. "uh...this sounds kind of right..." I'm exaggerating...

I can relate to the negative feedback and not knowing if your work is good. I have become almost completely agnostic about the quality of my work. I don't know what to think when some members in the profession tell me it's wonderful and other members it's horrible. Perhaps this is why I don't bother trying to make things sound good, since there is so much disagreement anyway.

Daniel Brunson

"Procrastination isn’t a unique character flaw or a mysterious curse on your ability to manage time, but a way of coping with challenging emotions and negative moods induced by certain tasks — boredom, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, resentment, self-doubt and beyond."


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