Curing Writer's Pain

Writing samples: Parker 75
Image by churl via Flickr

I didn’t know there was such an affliction. Not only is such compositional agony out there, it is the subject of college coursework. Stephanie Allen at idealawg (link here) posts on the subject from her experience in a workshop course presented by Dr. Donna Strickland. I urge you to hit the link to her post; it is detailed and definitely worth a read.

There are a few points I would like to highlight here. First, Dr. Strickland mentions the positive impact of a book she read, How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency: A Psychological Adventure by Robert Boice. In it, the author cites several causes for suffering:

  • Work aversion
  • Procrastination
  • Writing apprehension (this was the only cause on the list that Strickland did not experience)
  • Dysphoria/depression
  • Impatience
  • Perfectionism
  • Rigid rules (e.g., “If I don’t have three hours to write than what is the point?” or “I have to have a good first line before I write”)

These “causes” actually look like symptoms of pain to me. Why do these behaviors arise in the first place?

Dr. Strickland does set about crafting some cures for these conditions, which include letting go of the “mindfullness” that drives the above-cited “causes.” Dr. Strickland’s steps include incorporation of Boice’s steps and appear centered on the idea of dropping blocks that our intellect can put in place. Patience, yoga, beginning before “ready”, all have a place in aiding writing and curing pain.

Attorneys faced with writing a brief or motion may find themselves in pain as well. But we don’t often have the luxury of losing the “mindfulness”  aspect of our experience. Case in point, it makes little sense to start writing before you are prepared with the proper research, particularly if a deadline is looming. Writing twice and cutting once isn’t always an option.

But, we can practice our writing whenever possible to work through some of the issues implicated in the writing pain process. One of the real benefits of blog writing for lawyers is that it gets them to engage in a different form of writing than is usually before them and may even help to loosen up tight writing muscles that even Ben-Gay can’t touch.

In any event, Allen’s article includes links that may be of interest. If you have thoughts on the writing process and how to get past your own personal hurdles, I would love to hear about them in the comments.

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