How to avoid writer’s block if you are a lazy writer like me…

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I am very lazy when it comes to starting the writing process. The beginning always seems daunting and everything I write seems like gibberish. I backspace for the most part. So, often times I remain with this blank canvas for weeks on end and then I end up rushing to get something substantial when time is now against me.

The truth is I sometimes hide under my blankets, in the hopes that my writing tasks would go away. Low and behold when I remove the blanket the tasks are still there. Go figure!

When it comes to blogs… I often feel like ‘what’s the point in writing them when so many other people have said much of the same?’ ‘What makes my writing so unique that someone else will read it?’ There is always that negative voice as well asking ‘who cares about your opinion?’.

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I wonder why, when I’m facing my writing struggles, I never remember that all of my best written pieces began with that blank canvas and in order for it to get to that very polished stage I would have been through that ‘writing, deleting, editing, removing, and amending’ phase. Why can’t I ever remember that writing is a process?

But that is not only what writing is about… Writing in this context also encourages the exchange of information using a platform and in so doing some one else may support/comment/agree/disagree on the points that you have raised. This is important in today’s society. I was also happy that I stumbled upon this article that talks about what makes writing so important. Here are the main points:

  • Writing is the primary basis upon which your work, your learning, and your intellect will be judged—in college, in the workplace, and in the community.
  • Writing expresses who you are as a person.
  • Writing is portable and permanent. It makes your thinking visible.
  • Writing helps you move easily among facts, inferences, and opinions without getting confused—and without confusing your reader.
  • Writing promotes your ability to pose worthwhile questions.
  • Writing fosters your ability to explain a complex position to readers, and to yourself.
  • Writing helps others give you feedback.
  • Writing helps you refine your ideas when you give others feedback.
  • Writing requires that you anticipate your readers’ needs. Your ability to do so demonstrates your intellectual flexibility and maturity.
  • Writing ideas down preserves them so that you can reflect upon them later.
  • Writing out your ideas permits you to evaluate the adequacy of your argument.
  • Writing stimulates you to extend a line of thought beyond your first impressions or gut responses.
  • Writing helps you understand how truth is established in a given discipline.
  • Writing equips you with the communication and thinking skills you need to participate effectively in democracy.
  • Writing is an essential job skill.

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 Source: Marquette University 2011~based upon brochures from Brown University and the University of Missouri

So, no more excuses, time to ‘man up’ and face my daily writing challenges. This means the way I think about writing has to be transformed. It also means that I must create a strategy to combat my writing tasks as they come.

I plan to do the following in the hopes of improving my writing and overcoming writer’s block:

  • Do freewriting 
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Write early in the morning
  • Write while you sleep
  • Implement a writing schedule
  • Set deadlines and keep them

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Procrastination and my sample abstracts for Conference Presentation

Procrastination has been my friend for the longest time it seems.

“I can do it tomorrow or the tomorrow of tomorrows.”

“I know I should do it, but I just can’t seem to get started.”

“Let me check FB or some searches in web one more time – then I’ll get going.”

Source: http://www.polyu.edu.hk/sao/pdp/html/Procrastination.htm

In my attempt to unfriend this huge obstacle I will publish sample abstracts, which I have been meaning to upload for some weeks now.

Submitting abstracts for conference presentations can be a bit tricky especially when you are doing it for the first time. Although some may say this is a no-brainer just follow the submission guidelines…  I remained a bit perplexed as to what I was supposed to submit but I submitted ‘something’ anyway. I know this might sound silly but I guess for me it was a matter of deciding do I write something new or do I submit an abstract that’s within the remit of my research. After deliberating and discussing with my supervisor he definitely advised sticking to the area of research. In this way, one is less likely to become distracted and the writing may actually add substance to the research project.

So with that said here are my abstract samples that have been written within the last 2-3 years:

Abstract 1

What contributions can community media make to people-centred development in Trinidad and Tobago?

People-centred development is an interesting form of transformation, as it focuses on giving voice and agency to the people and this can be done through a myriad of processes. The practice of community media is an interesting phenomenon, as it has similar premises of the people-centred development paradigm. Observing the relationship between both variables to assess whether or not and in what ways they can contribute to each other made this study interesting, as this type of media has been under researched and neglected. Most of the existing media investigations reflect the mainstream media and the facilitating type of role it plays in development. The few researchers that have ventured into researching both the community media and development discourse have argued that the concept of development has made it quite difficult to measure any type of input. Therefore, this study attempted to be much more specific as it matched one of the best-suited types of development with community media so that signs of social change can be much easily measured. The findings unearth data that illustrates how a media type ‘for the people’ may still reach the grassroots audience even though the medium is utilised as a ‘go-between’ between the people and decision makers. This paper also demonstrated that notwithstanding call-in-segments and emails from the local people, they were still able to participate in bringing the issues to the fore.  In the final analysis of this research document it was deduced based on the case study that there are various ways in which community media have been a means of attaining people-centred development. However, no evidence gathered has exemplified that community is an end in itself in attaining people-centred development.

Abstract 2

SUSTAINABILITY OF THE COMMUNITY MEDIA IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

The community media fraternity slowly became apparent in the 1970s to generate a bottom-up form of communication after years of dominance by the commercially-driven and top-down mainstream media terrain (Louw 2001:53-54; Jakubowicz 2009). These fundamental flaws, identified in mainstream media, led activists in Europe (Nigg and Wade 1980), Latin America (Fox 1988; Mattelart 1986; White 1980 and 1983) and South Africa (Louw, 1989) to develop a community media framework, which aimed to provide a platform for the voiceless. These activists and many other community media scholars and practitioners, such as, Jankowski (2003), Rennie (2006) Gordon (2008) Fuller (2007) and Howley (2010), continue to debate the definition, organisation, structure and models of this nonmainstream form. As a result, many perplexed concepts and models of community media have materialised (Gordon 2008; Howley 2010). Beyond these ‘elusive’ and highly debatable definitions of community media, the amalgamation of theoretical approaches and distinguishing features prohibit this media form from achieving self-sustainability (Carpentier, et al. 2007).

Still, many theorists remain undeterred by the critical imperfections aforementioned of community media, as they believe that this particular nonmainstream form offers some factual advantages. According to Jakubowicz (2009), community media has a pluralistic element, whereby it plays an important role not only within the media fraternity but more importantly within any given society. In other respects, Carpentier and Scifo (2009:115-118) assert: “Despite their financial and organisational weaknesses… community media are being increasingly recognised as the third and distinct sector of broadcasting by recent policy and regulatory developments in Europe and across the globe.” To this end, it is important to maintain community media’s existence, so that society can improve and maximise on this outlet, as it offers valid alternatives to mainstream (Gordon 2008:11; Lewis 2006:13-39). Furthermore, community media enterprises are evolving through the use of a social enterprise approach (CCI 2011). Therefore, this evolution provides ‘a glimmer of hope’ for community media forms that encounter the critical issue of sustainability.

Without regard to ongoing debates on community media, scholars in this discipline have identified the areas that remain unexplored within the community media discourse: “the main deficiency in community media research is the paucity of theoretical grounding and model building” (Jankowski 2003:11). Therefore, with the aims and objectives of this research, which is to essentially assess the community media industry in Trinidad and Tobago, the outcomes will provide the basis for the creation of an improved philosophy and practice within this industry.

Abstract 3

The effectiveness of the Shoot To Live community media initiative in addressing the needs of the at-risk youth in Trinidad and Tobago.    

Practitioners and or scholars have presented arguments on the concepts, characteristics and theories of community media. While there might be some consensus on the community media debates presented, fundamental differences remain. One of the arguments, considering the title of this project, is that community media can be utilised as a social change tool (Rennie 2006:37). Evidence demonstrates that community media have been implemented to address social issues, such as crime and delinquency, in many parts of the globe (Servaes 2003). Still, theorists remain concerned about these types of community media initiatives, as many similar projects were fraught with fundamental issues that undermined its ability to be effective (Servaes 2009).

Therefore, a study of the Shoot To Live programme can potentially augment ideas on community media’s effectiveness in social change. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Trinidad and Tobago has taken this approach in their attempt to address issues faced by at-risk youth by launching the Shoot To Live programme. The main objective of this project is to empower 15-20 young men between the ages of 12-16 years residing within at-risk areas of Trinidad and Tobago through a combination of life skills training, photography and videography (YMCA 2010).

Thanks for reading!

Charting my PhD Journey

It’s been approximately 1 year & 5 months since I have started my PhD, and it focuses on assessing the use of communication strategies for social change within a Trinidad and Tobago context. Thus far my journey has been quite maze-like.

Initially, I felt quite lost and asked myself tonnes of times… ‘what the hell did I get myself into?’ After getting past some of the fundamental elements of this research degree, (such as, preparation for post graduate courses in literature review & research methods, including the PhD registration process) I released a huge of sigh of relief.

Some may say… your sighing may be a bit premature, but I reckon for every successful stage every PhD student must celebrate in some way, as this journey is a very long and meandering one.

So what’s next… well I am supposed to be working on my literature review chapters whilst analysing data I collected from an initial field work, but boy am I distracted. In spite of this, I am determined to get on with this PhD… so what’s my plan?

I intend on blogging on my journey for the next year and half and possibly share some interesting material, ideas, call for papers, conferences etc. My blog entries will also be useful discussion point, which will allow for interaction with other persons interested in the subject matters.

Hopefully, this process will inspire and motivate me to successfully complete my studies and possibly encourage others.

So let the PhD blogging journey begin!!!

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Photo Courtesy: Michael, H. (2012, 27th August 2012). Fully-filled Cup – A state you do not want to be stuck in..Apps that make a difference, [web log] Retrieved from: http://michaelhermano.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/phd-a-learning-journey.png [Accessed: 03rd August 2013].