By Chelsea Weller
The first step to overcoming writers block is admitting that you have writer’s block. Once this has been acknowledged, some students can hunker down and write. Others can’t—this article is for them. That said, reading articles about writers block won’t help the situation; this resource is simply a collection of tools to keep in your pocket in case you get stuck.
I won’t lie, I had writer’s block about writing about writer’s block, and I tried time and again to write this article without success. I discovered that my writer’s block was rooted in a lack of organization. I had an idea of what I wanted to say, but I had no idea how to say it. I made an appointment here at the Writing Center and talked about my topic. By the end of the session, I had a list of points I and a good idea of how I wanted to organize them. I was able to overcome writer’s block and the words began to flow.
My Fail-safe: The University Writing Center. Talking to someone is often all it takes to identify the problem and find a solution. You could also talk to a friend or professor if you feel like that could work, but you can make an appointment here according to your schedule. Even if talking to someone isn’t you first choice, keep us in mind in case you start to feel overwhelmed or no other solutions are working for you.
Do you understand the assignment? If the issue is a confusing assignment, you’ll want to talk to you professor. You might also put that piece of paper away. Write down the prompt from memory and don’t worry if it isn’t exactly as it appeared on the assignment. Now try to respond to it and keep that original tucked away. You can refer to it once you’ve produced some writing.
Are you struggling with how to respond to the prompt? Try to respond directly to the prompt. An example of this may be responding to the prompt “What is your favorite color?” with “My favorite color is teal because it sparks a memory of…” Sometimes it’s easier to write down everything you think relates to your topic and fill in information gaps later. By free writing about the assignment, ideas can develop and be used to form a more concrete outline or draft. Remember that free writing is only a tool to develop ideas and not a rough draft.
Are you far enough along in the writing process to feel comfortable drafting? If any doubt is present in the answer to that question, brainstorming may be the best plan of attack. In my case, the cause of writers block was trying to draft before I had determined my organization; I would start typing and the first paragraph my ideas were unorganized. Brainstorm until you have some direction, then try to respond to the prompt and work from there.
Could researching the topic be a solution? Researching could be a solution, but it’s possible that you’re overwhelmed by the information. Try to have a definite direction in what you are trying to say before you go looking for information. If you decide that research might help you, gather resources or information relevant to your topic and generate a brief outline. By deciding how you might use the information as you go, the research will guide rather than drown you. It’s important to not jump to doing research.
Do you find yourself staring at the page, waiting for inspiration? Stepping away from the work for a short time can often be helpful. Such breaks must be selective but can be incentivized. Try telling yourself that if you finish a paragraph or a page, then you can watch an episode on Netflix or maybe get a snack (chocolate is the best motivator for me). Another strategy may be setting smaller, more manageable deadlines; for example, I need to have one page completed before I can go out on Thursday night. By rewarding yourself for making progress, you might find that you work faster.
If you are struggling with writers block, don’t panic; you aren’t alone. By talking to someone, you may resolve your writers block. If you prefer to work by yourself, try one of the strategies here. If these don’t work for you, many more that I couldn’t cover are only a search away.