I have been in a writing funk for a good six months now, if not more. Periodically I can turn a good phrase, make a good point, or delude myself that I have snapped out of it. I am always wrong. An unfortunate side effect of these periods is that one of two things happens as a result:
1) Suddenly I am convinced that my writing hitherto was exceptional.
2) Suddenly I am convinced that nothing I have ever written was worth the paper it was printed on.
Now I am well aware that neither of these statements is correct, but sometimes the mind does funny things. In truth there are things I have written that I think are quite good, and some that are absolutely wretched, but the defining characteristic of both is how (in)effectually I developed the idea behind the piece of writing, and how remarkable that idea actually was. As with the pieces of writing themselves, there are some I am proud of and would like to build upon further, and some that I would really rather I forgot.
In this moment, I suspect that I am over-thinking writing, over-thinking the ideas and simply trying too hard. The defining characteristic of written comments from graduate school professors (so far as I can tell) is that the most scathing comment they can give you is that your writing resembles that of an undergraduate. In general I can sympathize with this statement, and having received it before, it does sting, but the larger issue that I see is that each professor finds different characteristics “undergrad-esque” and none of the expectations are well defined. To make matters worse, at least for me, I have taken just one course on writing since high school, and even then there was a greater emphasis on how to write a ‘proper’ bibliography (just for the record, I still don’t really know how), than there was on our writing. I have learned some from osmosis, from comments in undergrad and now graduate school, but most of my writing remains from how I speak and from imitating authors I respect–this gets more awkward when I begin to write akin to Greek authors.
And now I am trying too hard, thinking too much. I am looking at my writing as though I must come up with the perfect kernel, the perfect idea, and then develop it perfectly. But instead of actually doing this, I stare at the blinking cursor, seemingly without the capacity to translate thought to page. In the past I have circumvented this by writing everything longhand, which helps some, but not as much as it used to. I need get back to simply writing. Let the thoughts flow onto the page just to get the thoughts out. If they are not out, I cannot play with them.
I do not want to give the impression that I have learned nothing, or that this thinking is entirely bad. My writing certainly has gotten tighter, more precise and denser, but is not necessarily better.
Where there is a will, there is a way, and I need to find a way to merge the free-flowing imitation with methodical thought before it is too late.
P.S. I once told a professor that I was having real issues. I liked my topic, but I was hitting wall after wall, throwing myself into them until the walls cracked or I fell around them and stumbled into the next. That was almost five years ago, so I suppose this is not exactly a new phenomenon.