This is a GradHacker post by Cory Owen, PhD graduate student in Educational Leadership at University of Houston, @coowen
Whether you have true writer's block or struggle with perfectionism, hitting that delete button can be both terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. As someone who is never quite happy with the work I produce, I've found that I tend to over-analyze details. This leads to a lot of hours of quality time between me and my computer. Between that and my tendency to push through things (even when I really shouldn't), I find myself sometimes stressing out over things that just need to be deleted.
This came up recently when I realized that I wanted to change my dissertation topic. I know, I know--sounds like suicide, right? All those pages, painstakingly written, not to mention the countless days away from the human world would all be lost. But there was something so. . .liberating about deleting a bunch of stuff that I just wasn't passionate about any longer. Instead, I'm going to be combining some of my previous research (hey, I'm not completely nuts!) into a topic that I'm a lot more excited about and I'm already seeing a difference.
Of course I'm not saying that the first response to frustrating writing bouts is just to erase everything. But sometimes, it is just the right thing to do. If you find yourself re-writing and re-writing the same paragraph over and over again, maybe it just needs to be deleted. There seems to be an endless circle of word order changes, breaking out the thesaurus for yet another word to describe exactly what you're looking for when all you need to do is erase that sentence and start all over again. It is refreshing and gives you kind of an adrenaline rush--and maybe that's just what you need to find the perfect words to convey your meaning.
[Image by Flickr user M i x y and used under creative commons license]
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