I think I've fallen into just about every trap there is, but primarily the following things trip me up.
I try to write my final draft first. I wouldn't consider myself a perfectionist, but writing certainly can bring it out in me. I'm reminded of this little poem (ahem, "grook") by Piet Hein:
GROOK ON LONG-WINDED AUTHORSI only wish this were me except that I don't think all my perfectionist struggling means I end up writing only what matters... I just get stuck spinning in circles endlessly rewriting sentences. I've been trying instead to simply write my thoughts out in whatever awkward and kludgy fashion they arrive in, but it's hard to do. It's so compelling to pause and rework a sentence or paragraph so that it gets the point across more precisely. Yet doing that, I'm finding, just leads to frustration and then to me losing interest in what I'm doing. When I described this situation to a friend she said something like, "Relax. Of course the first draft sucks, that's why you have 8th and 9th drafts."
Long-winded writers I abhor,
and glib, prolific chatters;
give me the ones who tear and gaw
their hair and pens to tatters:
who find their writing such a chore
they only write what matters.
I have a restless mind. This is new for me. I'm used to being able to concentrate on a task for long period of time. In fact, I usually have the problem where I forget to eat, drink, or stretch because I get so engrossed in what I'm doing. Not so with writing this month. Instead, it's taken some serious discipline to just keep my bum in my chair and my eyes on the writing page. I've also been spending time in the school library to avoid the distraction of my lab (even though I use the labcoat trick at times). It also doesn't help that I have many other activities in my life that I can and do turn my attention towards. Many thanks to my research partner extraordinaire who has been doing a great job of keeping in me in line.
I'm trying to write it all. I'm pretty invested in this master's thesis at this point. I've put plenty of time and effort into gathering the data for this project, and I now feel a real pressure (from myself, my colleagues, advisor, research subjects, university, tax payers of Canada, you name it) to make sure what I write captures all of that -- that I'm thorough.
I take it personally. When I get stuck in my writing I start to lose confidence in myself. I've never had an easy time with writing -- it's always been something I agonize over -- but then writing has never been central to what I do (i.e. programming or growing vegetables). Of course, in the academic world it is central, and so having trouble writing is a real knock against my ego and confidence. It can really get me down.
I've also discovered I'm just plain slow at thinking at times. Even when I allow myself to write in a no-holds-barred stream-of-consciousness style it still takes me what seems like an unreasonable amount of time to figure out what I want to say. And even when I think I know what I want to say, I find I spend a while trying to articulate in sentences that wouldn't shame an 5 year old. Okay, I'm exaggerating.... I think...
On the upside, when I do get a bit of writing down that I feel good about it's satisfying. Really satisfying. I love it, actually. There's something wonderful about getting thoughts down on a page. It's so enjoyable that, if it wasn't so darn frustrating (and if I was actually any good at it) I'd consider writing as a career.