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Tag Archives: fear of writing

How Do We Start Writing?

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Many of us, who have just begun their writing journeys, are struggling with this question. Invariably, most of us delay our writing assuming that what we want to say would develop in our mind first and then, we would put it on paper. This is also an excuse for postponing our writing. We keep trying to think of something substantial before putting our thoughts down on paper. We fear that without any thoughts we would be staring at the blank paper.
Some other times, we think that we know exactly what we want to write. It is all in our mind, we just need to put it down on paper. However, when we start putting it down, the entire structure begins falling apart. We realize that the structure we thought was reasonable cannot be supported through any evidence or theory. We feel that we have to start again.
In both aforementioned scenarios, we are making the mistake of assuming writing as a mechanical process. We think that it is just about jotting down on pen and paper or on our laptop. We think that we think through our minds and our hands just mechanically process it. This is one of the biggest problems of modern society, which has undue importance to the mind at the cost of the hand. The movement of our hands facilitates the flow of our thoughts. It is our hand that has the capacity to engage our mind in an extensive manner. Maria Montessori (1949), in The Absorbent Mind, has argued that the development of our mind remains stunted if we do not pay attention to the development of our hands.
We can start writing with a blank mind. We might sit on our desk with nothing to write but this act would help us to focus our mind on the task at hand. It would encourage us to pick our pen to write something. This would get the ball rolling and we would get into the writing mode. Once we force ourselves to write consistently for a few months, we realize that the more we write the more organize our thoughts become. Our thoughts develop and shape through writing. We may start with a brief outline or an overview but while writing our thoughts gradually pick up a logical sequence.
Writing everyday is the most important activity for a writer. Every time you think of postponing writing, you must remind yourself that it is you fear of writing and not the lack of ideas and thoughts.

Preparing to Write

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In my last blog post I talked about my plan to deal with my fear of writing by taking up a fourteen week-long writing challenge. For successful completion of this challenge, I need to do some preparations. This post deals with my preparations for the challenge:

Fixed Time: Though many people have said begin your day with writing, but one doesn’t follow it until one realises its importance. In order to complete this challenge, first thing I need to do is to fix up a time for writing and I have decided to begin my day with writing. I am hoping that this habit will make writing the central activity of my day. In other words, my entire routine will then be centred around writing.

Uncluttered Mind: My experience tells me that I cannot write if I cannot think clearly. Confused mind gets reflected in our writing. Problems that come up while drafting cannot be dealt with thoughtfully by a confused mind. Meditation and long evening walks generally help me gain perspective and clarity. In other words, I require some quiet time to think clearly.

Reflective Thinking: It is related to the previous requirement but I thought spelling it out will help me. I need some time to reflect or to draw connections between different ideas. I require this time to make sense of the phenomena.

Reading: Reading triggers our thought process, therefore a dedicating an hour to reading is essential for me. I am not a full-time writer, so I know this requires a lot of manipulation but I understand how essential reading is for writing. Reading like a writer helps me in carefully noting the style of writing used by the writer; how she has organised her paper; how is she arguing etc.

Outline: I am quite lazy, so I prefer to discover while writing which adversely affects my performance. I have observed that every time I prepare an outline first, my writing is much improved. So before I begin drafting I need to prepare an outline. This outline is nothing but a formal space for reflective thinking. This outline helps me figure out what it is that I want to say and how am I going to do it. It just helps me control my writing. In other words, it will demystify the process of writing for me.

Dealing With Fear of Writing

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I learnt to read and write in school through decoding. I began with learning alphabets and then joining these alphabets to read simple words without any meaning or context. Then after two years of this kind of training, I began to read simple sentences with little meaning. In the process, I learnt two things. Firstly, reading and writing is a complex formulaic process that I know nothing about. Secondly, meaning is unimportant in the initial stages of reading.

Together these two learnings affected my confidence, as for me the process of reading and writing was now mystified and my own knowledge of language was not acknowledged. I was also not able to make much sense of the reading writing exercises that were given in school. Soon, I stopped intellectually engaging with language. But I managed somehow to sustain my interest in reading. Writing however remained a frightening experience for me and it still is.

In college, while training to be an elementary school teacher I came across constructivist approaches to reading and writing such as whole language approach; language experience approach, emergent literacy and process writing approach. I learnt about these and used them as effectively as possible in my grade one class. But I remained a reluctant writer. I was scared of writing my experiences of using these approaches.

Recognising my fear for writing, I remembered what Rousseau had said that if the teacher herself does not love her subject she will give pass on message to her students. Afraid of this, I promised myself to make reading and writing a more meaningful exercise for my students. Then while working with Dalit girls of rural Uttar Pradesh, I learnt that writing has a lot to do with confidence. I promised myself that I would make reading and writing fun for these girls, so that unlike me, they begin to enjoy writing. I wanted them to write for themselves. This happened but I still could not overcome my phobia for writing. Reading Frank Smith’s ‘Essays into Literacy’ also did not help me much.

I moved on but in every stage of my life writing became an inescapable reality. Now a doctoral student, I cannot but have to face my fears. In the meanwhile I began teaching MA programme students, and through them I realised how systematically all of us learnt to curb our voices in school which developed into our fear for writing.

So, in order to deal with this fear, I decided to take up a writing challenge for fourteen weeks. I must thank Brandon Sanderson for inspiring me to do this. I watched a clip of his 2013 lecture titled ‘Build Good Habits’ in which he asks his students to take up the challenge of writing 3000 words a week for fourteen weeks. My challenge begins from 1st November 2014 till 8th February 2015. In this period, I vow to write 500 words everyday. I vow to begin my day with writing.

I am hoping that by the end of this challenge I will be able to get rid of my phobia for writing.

Wish me luck.