Picture the scene: You’re at the computer, sitting in your favorite chair. You open Google Docs in one tab and the directions for your paper in another. You put your fingers on the keyboard, the ideas rolling in your head. And then…nothing. You draw a blank, and everything you knew about the topic is off vacationing in Paris. And now, you’re stuck in front of the computer with a blinking cursor mocking you from a blank white page.
Writer’s block is a common yet unfortunate problem that many students have faced. Whether it’s a short response paper, a critical paper, or a dissertation, it can be extremely hard to know how to get started. Luckily, though, there are a few strategies you can use to get past this struggle:
- Talk it out. Whether it’s to a friend, a relative, or a stuffed animal, talking out loud can help light a spark. It’s important to get out of your head, and by talking it out, you’re better able to focus on the ideas you want in your paper. If you talk to a real person, they can even act as a sounding board and help you clarify the points you want to make.
- Dictate your ideas. Do you ever have that feeling where you know exactly what it is you want to say but you can’t translate your thoughts to paper? If that sounds all too familiar, then you may benefit from dictating your ideas. You can ask a friend or use a voice software program that will type out what you say, making it easier for you to focus solely on your ideas.
- Skip the introduction. Introductions are the hardest part; it’s difficult to introduce the main ideas of your paper when you have yet to write the body paragraphs. Instead of trying to write your intro first, jump straight to the body paragraphs.
- Walk away from the computer. Mindlessly staring at the computer won’t make words appear on the page. If you’re stuck, walk away from the computer and take a break. Go outside or go in another room and take a deep breath; a change of environment can help you refocus.
- Use a timer. The idea of sitting in front of a computer for several hours to work on a paper doesn’t sound appealing, and that fear can deter you from writing. To make writing more bearable, try using a timer. Work for a short time (15-20 minutes) and then give yourself a 5-minute break.
Writer’s block is an enemy of students, but it doesn’t have to be YOUR enemy. Try using these strategies the next time you’re working on a paper, and let us know how they go!