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How to Overcome Writer's Block

Have you ever sat down to write an assignment and had trouble getting words onto the paper? This is a common situation for many students. It's so common, in fact, there's a special name for it: writer's block.

When hit with writer's block, many students decide to simply wait it out and try again when inspiration strikes. However, depending on how long it takes for inspiration to strike, this waiting can waste valuable time.

Instead of waiting it out, try identifying what type of writer's block you have – an idea block or a production block – and then try some of these tips to help get back to writing.

Idea Blocks

In order to write, you need to have an idea of what you want to say. Idea blocks make it difficult to generate, organize, or focus on ideas. This, in turn, makes it difficult to write.

Reasons for an Idea Block

  • You are censoring yourself. Negative self-talk, such as "I never have anything good to say," or "My readers will think that's stupid," gets in the way of putting words onto the page.
  • You have too few ideas, and you may feel like you've run out of things to say.

  • You have too many ideas, so you may find it hard to narrow down your ideas. Alternatively, you may also have trouble focusing on one idea at a time.

Tips to Overcome an Idea Block

  • Try some more brainstorming and invention strategies to generate new ideas.
  • Do a bit more research to narrow down your ideas to those with the strongest evidence.
  • Allow for mistakes. First drafts are meant to be edited, so they don't have to be perfect. 
  • Do something mindless or active to trigger new ideas.
  • Keep a distraction journal to jot down distracting thoughts (e.g. the laundry to do this weekend or an idea for another assignment) in a notebook and then continue writing.

Production Blocks

Even if you have clear ideas of what you want to write, you may still have trouble getting them onto paper. There is a misconception that good writing is the result of inspiration or talent and that without these, there is no point trying to write anything at all. This mindset creates production blocks.

 Reasons for a Production Block

  • You don't have a writing routine. Instead, you simply write when you have spare time or when you feel like it.
  • You don't have clear writing goals. While the ultimate goal may be to complete the writing assignment, each writing session should be focused on a particular task.
  • You are surrounded by distractions.

Tips to Overcome a Production Block

  • Schedule your writing time. If you use a calendar, block off specific time to write. When that time comes, commit to writing.
  • Set goals and track your progress. Set daily, weekly, and/or monthly writing goals, depending on the scale of the writing project. Write these goals down, cross them off when met, and reward yourself when you complete major goals.
  • Identify distractions and plan how to avoid them. If you're distracted by Facebook, commit yourself to not checking it until you finish your writing session.

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