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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Writers Who Resist Research and Writers Who Can’t Stop


questions canstockphoto7418437 (2)Writers who don’t like research often don’t know how to start.

Writers who love research often don’t know when to stop.

Paradoxically, the solution is the same for both types.

Stuck in the Research

Some writers say they get stuck in the research because they love it. Whether they know it or not, many writers get stuck in research not only because they love it, but because they’re resisting the next step in the creative process, which is Incubation. (Stages of the creative process are described in Chapter 4 of AWB.)

To enter Incubation, you have to embrace uncertainty. You have to accept that even though you have all that information you gathered, you don’t know how it all fits together. Incubation is uncomfortable for everyone, but it can be excruciating for writers who like research.

puzzle piecesTo make the transition from research to Incubation, you have to be able to recognize when you’ve gathered enough puzzle pieces. You have to know when to push yourself from doing what you know how to do – collecting puzzle pieces – and start doing what you don’t know how to do – figuring out how the pieces fit together.

Some writers don’t know how to stop researching because they can’t tell when enough is enough.

Stuck Avoiding Research

Many writers who resist research think it will be boring, tedious and uncreative. We can’t find an intriguing way into the research, so we try to skip that stage and go from idea (First Insight) to drafting (Verification). This rarely results in good writing.

Make no mistake: every writer must do some research regardless of genre. When I was young, I thought I’d write fiction where I could make everything up. But of course, good fiction requires all kinds of research.

So I thought I’d write fantasy and science fiction so I could really make it all up. But fantasy and science fiction require just as much, if not more, research. Even memoir and poetry require research. It’s a different kind of research, but it’s research nonetheless.

quicksand canstockphoto0054324 (2)Research-resistant writers try to jump ahead only to get frustrated when our drafts drift aimlessly or lose energy or focus. It can look like we’re stuck in the drafting phase. Truth is, we have no business being in the drafting phase until we do some research.

Research is the stage where we gather the puzzle pieces. How can we expect to put the puzzle together if we haven’t gathered enough pieces?

Want to Get Unstuck?

It doesn’t matter where you get stuck. Stuck is stuck. My next post will explore the solution that gets both research-loving and research-resistant writers out of resistance and back into motion.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Looks Like Writer’s Block, But It’s Not | Bane of Your Resistance - August 4, 2016

    […] writers love the pre-research stage, some writers can’t wait to get to the research. Both types can get stuck if they try to write before they’re […]

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