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Conquering Writer's Block: Strategies for Getting Started

Why do we get Writer's Block? 

Fear

Our papers seem so big and overwhelming that we are afraid to start. We procrastinate, thinking the assignment is too huge to ever complete. Remember, the largest journey begins with a single step.

Stress

We become so overcome by anxiety that we can't even sit down to start the paper.

Lack of Self Confidence

We are afraid our intellectual and creative abilities aren't up to the task at hand, and are therefore afraid to see the results of what we can come up with. Remember, writing is a process. There's always another draft, and another chance to improve our writing. 

 

Strategies for beating Writer's Block: 

  1. Freewrite

Sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Set a time limit for yourself, fifteen minutes, an hour, two hours, etc. Don't leave your computer until you've finished this time period. You can do the same thing with page limits. Let yourself freewrite for two pages, five pages, or ten. Don't worry about grammar, organization, or "sounding smart." Just write. 

  1. Annotation

Write or Post-It note flag in your text as you read. Mark rhetorical devices, important passages, and ideas that interest you. Remember, no one has to see this but you.

  1. Mapping 

Write down all of your ideas on a piece of paper. It can help to circle them in order to separate them out. Then, draw lines between the ideas that connect. Think of it as connecting the dots. Try to find connections between ideas that aren't so obviously connected. Sometimes, exploring the relationship between ideas that don't seem to relate at first can be paper-writing gold. 

  1. Index Cards

Write down all of your ideas and important textual evidence on index cards. Lay them out on the floor, a desk, or a table. Try rearranging them in different ways to see which ideas go together.

  1. Keep it simple. Just start writing

Just begin to write your paper. Don't worry if your ideas seem simple at first. They will become more complex as you begin to write. Remember that ideas will come to you as you write. You don't have to plan them out in your head before you start.

  1. Bribe/Reward Yourself

Bribe yourself with rewards for writing. What nice thing can you do for yourself after writing two pages? Five pages? Your whole paper? Let yourself have that hot shower, long walk, bar of chocolate, date for coffee, or anything else that you want and feel will motivate you. Be proud of even the smallest accomplishment. 

  1. Talk over your paper with a friend, professor, or writing tutor

Sometimes, we get our best ideas simply by talking things over with another person.

  1. Holistic Approach

Eating well, drinking water, sleeping enough, and exercising are very important to have our minds functioning at the top of their abilities. You'll be amazed at the surge in your creativity after a good night's sleep or a jog. Focus on mental health as well. Try meditation or keeping a journal. Develop a strong support network of friends and family. Consider seeing a counselor if you are emotionally distressed. Keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle can make all the difference in the world.

Some Inspirational Quotes on Writing: 

"The most enviable writers are those who, quite often un-analytically and unconsciously, have realized that there are different facets to their nature and are able to live and work with now one, now the other ..."Dorothea Brande

"What we call procrastination might well be incubation, and the importance of prewriting--sorting things through, assimilating, making connections ..."Henriette Ann Klauser

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."Will Rogers

"A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow." —George S. Patton

"The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work."Robert Frost

"When I sit at my table to write, I never know what it's going to be until I'm under way. I trust in inspiration, which sometimes comes and sometimes doesn't. But I don't sit back waiting for it. I work every day."Alberto Moravia

"Writing energy is like anything else: The more you put in, the more you get out."Richard Reeves

"Success comes before work only in the dictionary."Anonymous

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."Aristotle

"The harder you work, the luckier you get."Gary Player 

"It's always too early to quit."Norman Vincent Peale

"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on."Franklin D. Roosevelt 

"Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their jobs."Malcolm Forbes

"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go."William Feather

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." —Calvin Coolidge 

 

 

Kate Willett

Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley

©2005 UC Regents 

 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.