Q: What do you do when you are struggling with a particular point in your writing?
A: When I get stuck or hit a roadblock, I need to do something different. Sometimes, when I am struggling with a key passage or an introduction, I shut the computer and sit down with blank paper and a pen. I try to write, simply, what I most want to say. If I am struggling with something longer, such as a part of a paper, I’ll convert the footnotes to endnotes, print the text single-sided, and cut up the paragraphs or even parts of paragraphs. Then I close my office door and get down on the floor and move the pieces around. Of course I can “cut” and “paste” in Word, but I find it faster to try different arrangements – and I feel freer to experiment – when I can slide the fragments around on the floor. Doing that helps me loosen the grip of the order that has become familiar. When I group the slips of paper, I often realize that I have said almost the same thing more than once. When I am satisfied with the order, I tape them onto scrap paper and only then return to the computer to reorder the material.