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Beating the Block: 6 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

Written by Rachel Wong

Your laptop is set up. Your notes are laid out and your energy drink is within reach. You lean over to write your first word and… nadda. No ideas, no words, no pseudo-intellectual filler to feel like you’ve done something.

Writer’s block is a student’s worst nightmare. A grave, grave enemy, especially when final papers worth 50% of your grade are involved. But never fear, we’re here to show you 6 ways to get over writer’s block and how to kick it to the curb. Permanently.

  1. Take Time to Plan

Repeat after me: I vow never to jump into an essay right away. If you don’t know how to start your essay, it may be a good time to plan it out. The University of Toronto’s University College Writing Centre suggests planning your essay will not only let you focus on research and writing, but will also save you time and stress when it comes to finishing it. It’s always a good idea to have a solid road map before instead of figuring it out as you go.

  1. Use Your Stream of Consciousness

Do you often tango on the keyboard and hit the backspace button a million times in the process? Take some time to write out the ideas that are jumbled up in your head onto a sheet of scrap paper. Let your thoughts run free. After just pounding out ideas for a while, step away. Then come back. There are probably many valid, cohesive points you can use in your essay that are sitting in your brain but hiding behind a layer of stress.

  1. Keep Going and Don’t Stop

Shakespeare probably had a waste bucket overflowing with crossed out, gushy lines before crafting punishingly beautiful lines of iambic pentameter. Though it may be difficult, take the time to power through your first draft. Don’t look back and don’t stop. Just keep writing and leave your essay intact with all its spelling mistakes and grammar errors. Get your thoughts onto paper; leave the editing for later. After all, that is what moms are for (but if she’s not home, use this to help you out with the proofreading)!

  1. Step Awaaay From the Laptop

Sometimes we like to stare blankly at our notes. Or the blinking cursor on our screen. For, you know, inspiration. The truth is that when students are overworked, they can become frustrated and end up wasting time. If you find yourself having a staring contest with your monitor, take a time out and step away from the screen. Give yourself 10 minutes to cool down and clear your head. I mean, I had a staring contest with my cursor once. I lost.

  1. Do a Bit More Research

The stress from not being able to write anything can arise because you lack knowledge on the subject. Give yourself a basic understanding of the topic and take to Google to learn a bit more. Once you have some general working knowledge, go in-depth with your research and search scholarly websites and databases. Don’t forget to show your local library some love and take out some books on your topic. Creating a solid foundation will not only help you with the writing process, but can help you retain information well after the paper is due. Now you can chime in every time your grandparents launch into their discussion on the Great Depression at family dinners.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

According to blogger Seth Godin, “If you know you have to write something every single day … you will improve your writing.” Since students can count on writing papers, doing lab reports, or comparing and contrasting their work during their university careers, take some time to practice writing outside of school. Use blogging sites like Tumblr, WordPress or (my personal domain of choice) Blogger to write every day, whether it’s a recipe for your famous chocolate chip cookies or a rambling post on that one cute guy in your lecture. The bottom line? Writing often can/will improve your grammar, spelling, and style. Take advantage of the opportunity and become a master of the written word.

Writer’s block can be a nuisance, but with the help of these tips and a lot of self-confidence, you can kiss writer’s block goodbye and keep on writing to your heart’s content.

Write on, SLNers!

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.