Assistant Professor, Biology
Q: What do you do when you are struggling with a particular point in your writing?
A: I was drawn to this question because I am in fact struggling with writing something right this very moment! And, by writing this answer, I am applying my favorite solution to being stuck, which is to write something else. I often find that ideas that seem more or less clear in my head fall apart when I try to write them down. I can stare at the same sentence for what seems like ages, but the next words won’t come. But, depending on my mood, there is always some other piece of writing that is likely to come easier: overdue replies to emails, a letter of reference, some CV updates, a blog comment, a complaint to the city about car alarms—it doesn’t matter as long as my mind is engaged and my fingers are moving.
Once I’ve got a little momentum, I can usually bring it back to the thing I was stuck on. If nothing else, I can at least start to get more words on the page. They will inevitably be moved, rewritten, or deleted (as almost everything in these two paragraphs has been), but the process will be underway again. Writing is both mental and physical. You have to have something to say, but you also have to sit still, focus, and physically press buttons on your keyboard. Like any physical activity, the more you do it, the easier it is.