Hello, Marauders! Welcome back to another weekly blog post from yours truly, the Writing Center. Today we’ll be talking about the dreaded problem of WRITER’S BLOCK. This is when you are trying to write something–anything–and for some reason, you simply cannot do it. You cannot figure out how to start, where to start, what to write, or maybe even why you’re even writing it in the first place. There’s a creative blockage that’s hindering your ability to write. So, what can we do about this?
A Real Life Example from Emily, A Writing Center Tutor
Writer’s block can happen to anyone at any stage of their creative process. For example, the topic that my fellow blog writer, Jake, and I decided to write about this week was, obviously, writer’s block. And as I sat down to write it, I thought, “Oh, dear. What a topic to be writing about when I don’t even know what to write or how to write about it.” I started by writing the introduction, explaining what writer’s block is, the problems that it causes, etc. etc. But I didn’t really know where to go from there. So I googled it and glanced over the first results that popped up. Then I sat back and scrolled on my phone for a little (typically I would advise to NOT do this when trying to write, especially if it’s an academic paper or big project). Then I thought, “Let’s make a list. Lists are good. Lists are helpful.” I began to get over my writer’s block when I focused on breaking the big project (writing a blog post about writer’s block) into smaller pieces (such as the sections of the post, and two or three main ideas that I wanted to get across). I figured the easiest way to start was to offer at least 3-5 pieces of advice on how to deal with writer’s block. That way, I had a measurable goal that was realistic and manageable. I reminded myself that I wasn’t trying to cover EVERYTHING, but rather just some tidbits of information that I think are important and will be helpful to fellow students. So, here are the 5 helpful tips I found on how to deal with writer’s block:
- Get some words onto the page (University of Illinois Springfield). Don’t wait for “inspiration to strike.” So how do you get words on the page?
- Start brainstorming ideas for the topic. Pick ones that are interesting to you, or ones that you think you’d enjoy exploring further. From here, you can start outlining and coming up with main points or main ideas that you want to express (Purdue OWL).
- Use visuals! Visualizing the problem and having something concrete in front of you can be a big help during the writing process (MasterClass). Use Post-It notes, circle important information, annotate, put a question mark next to something if you find yourself asking, “What does this mean?” etc. Personally, I like to highlight as I’m reading the articles that I’ve found. I’ll highlight quotes that stand out to me, or information that I think will be necessary or useful for my topic.
- YOU DON’T HAVE TO WRITE THE INTRODUCTION FIRST! Sometimes writing introductions is hard. I totally understand. I like to write my body paragraphs first, because I’ve done the research, I have my quotes and evidence, and I know the topic pretty well at this point. So it’s easier to write about my main points, and once I have that, then I go back to my introduction.
- Ask for help. If you still feel stuck and you don’t know what to write about, or how to narrow a topic down, or how to determine what’s important information and what’s not, go to a tutor or a teacher and ask for help! Bring your work and your ideas with you and bounce them off of another person. Having someone else present is so helpful because you can pick their brain and they can help you see the issue from a different angle and fresh perspective.
Oh! One more bonus tip: Put your phone in a place where you physically can’t see it or easily reach it. Put it somewhere where you have to get up and walk to get it. Seriously. Even if you do this for only 30 minutes, it can help you focus better on your work and get rid of distractions. Anyway, I hope you found these tips (and my personal experience) helpful! It may sound cliche, but the best remedy for writer’s block is to just start writing. Jot some words down on the page. Start mulling over ideas. And, of course, feel free to stop by the Writing Center for additional help! We can help you at any stage of the writing process, including brainstorming and outlining. Our hours are 1-9 PM on Mondays through Thursdays, and 1-4 PM on Fridays. With that being said, good luck and happy writing!