Symptoms and Cures for Writer's Block
Help in overcoming writer's block and a short series of exercises to get you writing.
Contributors:Sean M. Conrey, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2011-07-06 10:03:26
Because writers have various ways of writing, a variety of things can cause a writer to experience anxiety, and sometimes this anxiety leads to writer's block. Often a solution can be found by speaking with your instructor (if you are in school), or a writing tutor. There are some common causes of writer's block, however, and when you are blocked, consider these causes and try the strategies that sound most promising:
You have attempted to begin a paper without doing any preliminary work such as brainstorming or outlining...
- Use invention strategies suggested by a tutor or teacher
- Write down all the primary ideas you'd like to express and then fill in each with the smaller ideas that make up each primary idea. This can easily be converted into an outline
You have chosen or been assigned a topic which bores you....
- Choose a particular aspect of the topic you are interested in (if the writing situation will allow it...i.e. if the goal of your writing can be adjusted and is not given to you specifically, or if the teacher or project coordinator will allow it)
- Talk to a tutor about how you can personalize a topic to make it more interesting
You don't want to spend time writing or don't understand the assignment...
- Resign yourself to the fact that you have to write
- Find out what is expected of you (consult a teacher, textbook, student, tutor, or project coordinator)
- Look at some of the strategies for writing anxiety listed below
You are anxious about writing the paper...
- Focus your energy by rehearsing the task in your head.
- Consciously stop the non-productive comments running through your head by replacing them with productive ones.
- If you have some "rituals" for writing success (chewing gum, listening to jazz etc.), use them.
You are so stressed out you can't seem to put a word on the page...
- Stretch! If you can't stand up, stretch as many muscle groups as possible while staying seated.
- Try tensing and releasing various muscle groups. Starting from your toes, tense up for perhaps five to ten seconds and then let go. Relax and then go on to another muscle group.
- Breathe deeply. Close your eyes; then, fill your chest cavity slowly by taking four of five short deep breaths. Hold each breath until it hurts, and then let it out slowly.
- Use a calming word or mental image to focus on while relaxing. If you choose a word, be careful not to use an imperative. Don't command yourself to "Calm down!" or "Relax!"
You're self-conscious about your writing, you may have trouble getting started. So, if you're preoccupied with the idea that you have to write about a subject and feel you probably won't express yourself well...
- Talk over the subject with a friend or tutor.
- assure yourself that the first draft doesn't have to be a work of genius, it is something to work with.
- Force yourself to write down something, however poorly worded, that approximates your thought (you can revise this later) and go on with the next idea.
- Break the task up into steps. Meet the general purpose first, and then flesh out the more specific aspects later.
- Try one of the strategies on the next page of this resource.
Everyone has experienced writer’s block at some point in time – whether it’s while writing a college essay, a course research paper or a first-draft of a dissertation.
Whether or not writing comes naturally to you isn’t the issue – it happens to everyone and everyone needs to write something at some point in their academic career.
No matter what you’re writing about, writer’s block can literally put a roadblock in your path to success. Getting rid of it will help you continue your stream of productivity and allow you to move forward in your tasks.
Here are some helpful hints to utilize when trying to overcome writer’s block:
Create an Outline
Sometimes, you know what you want to say but don’t know how to say it. If you organize out your points in outline form, it’s much easier to fill in the blanks in between.
Divide your sections by topics or points, which will become your discussion paragraphs.
If you have any quotations you’d like to incorporate, add them to the relevant sections within the outline.
You can even add how you want to begin and end, so you’ll have everything laid out from start to finish.
Once you’re finished, you just need to add in wording to formulate clear thoughts, but all of the difficult work is already finished since you know what you’re going to say.
Stop Trying to Write
Walk away. Do something else that takes your mind off of trying to write.
It may be that your brain just needs a break and some time to recharge. There’s nothing wrong with stopping for a while and picking up where you left off after you’ve had a break.
Rest Your Brain
Maybe you’re tired. Maybe something else is on your mind. Whatever it is that’s blocking you clearly needs time, so let your mind work it out by resting and relaxing.
You can get back to writing when you’re recharged and the block has removed itself from the equation.
Do Something Creative
If you do something other than writing, but still creative, it’ll get your brain recharged in terms of creativity. It can help to inspire you and boost the writing process back into gear.
Have you ever needed to know something on cue? You may know it inside-and-out but, when it comes time to recite, you choke.
The same goes for writing. If you need to come up with something under pressure, it can hinder you speechless, so to speak.
While some people claim to write well under pressure, that’s likely not true for most people.
Avoid procrastinating so you have time to work through the writing process thoroughly, without pressure – if you can help it. If deadlines come into play, and you don’t have control over the situation, simply try another tip!
Write about Something Else
Just exercising writing – about your day, a story or anything else – will help get your brain into writing mode and help get you back on track.
Don’t Pressure Yourself
It’s not going to help if you put yourself down for having a block. It happens to the best of writers, so just take a break or try one of the above tips instead!
What helps you overcome writer’s block?
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