I've mentioned before that I don't perceive my creative and my academic writing as widely different. While not a widely held view, most people I know who do both agree that these two seemingly disparate writing practices face many of the same issues and require many of the same skills. The myth of write's block is common to both of these practices, however in academic writing it's most often referred to as procrastination. Stories of fellow academics' spotlessly tidy homes and offices abound. My own personal favourite is re-ordering my bookshelves, although last week I discovered that the Goodreads app for the iPad uses the camera to scan your books and add them to your virtual shelves thus allowing me to catalogue and re-order. Hours of extra fun.
So, am I saying that writer's block is just procrastination? Yes and no. Very often the root cause of our impulse to procrastinate is the same as that of what we call writer's block. Sitting down in front of the keyboard and monitor (or, for me often the pen and paper) and being unable to write anything is down to something very simple; not being prepared enough. Finding it tough to write that paper? That's likely to be because you aren't ready to write it. Unclear writing is a sign of unclear thinking, and if you don't have at least a competent grasp of your line of argument then you will never be able to construct a good paper.
The idea that creative writing is all about inspiration is another myth, perpetuated by writers, critics and publishers alike. Having writer's block is not about waiting for the muse to enlighten you, its about not being willing to power through the difficult bits. No novel ever arrives from Olympus, fully formed and perfectly written. It's about crafting the story, and grafting over the details. It's enough to drive you crazy, but by all accounts the best writers are.
Now to get off the blog and go write that thesis chapter...