Written by Amy Potts
BSc (Hons) Archaeology
When writing your dissertation there is a surprising amount to remember to do: spelling, grammar, references, not to mention the rest. And these can sometimes be the least of your worries. You are about to live and breathe this project for the next year. Which is actually terrifying (especially if you start talking to others and hear all about their awesome sounding projects. Just keep calm, everyone thinks everyone else’s project sounds really cool compared to theirs, it’s normal). But one of the worst parts (that can, in some cases, lead to you having a week to write everything)… writer’s block.
Most people experience writer’s block at one point or another. It is that feeling where you sit down, open the document, and can’t write. You stare and stare and honestly, despite trying everything, cannot put a single word on the page. At this point one sentence is an achievement. And it sucks.
So while I was working on my dissertation, I became a great believer in two pieces of writing advice.
“Don’t get it right, get it written”, by James Thurber.
“You can’t edit a blank page,” by Nora Roberts.
And with these two pieces of very sage advice in mind I went about and created my vomit draft.
And despite the rather unpleasant name, the vomit draft is an incredibly useful writing trick (at least it was for me). The vomit draft is my bad draft. Like really bad. I find that when I get stuck it is because I am not sure what I am supposed to do, and very afraid that I am going to do whatever I am supposed to very badly wrong. So I write a vomit draft.
The vomit draft is supposed to be bad (vomit draft = vomiting words onto the page). And that, for me at least, lifts the writing block. Suddenly I’m no longer afraid, because it is supposed to be awful. I am throwing words on the page, with no consideration beyond getting the thoughts out of my head and onto the document. This draft has spelling mistakes littering the page like bottles after a party, grammar closer resembling an ancient dead language than English, and if I am honest half the time I have no idea what point I am even making.
And that is the point. Because the entire aim of the vomit draft is to create a first draft. After all, “you can’t edit a blank page.” (Disclaimer – the vomit draft will need lots of editing. Seriously.)
But, if I were to offer any points of wisdom for writing a dissertation? Start early, double check the entire handbook before you hand it in, and if you can find a topic that you love and gives you an excuse to do or try something you have always wanted to? Perfect.
By Amy Potts