If you find yourself struggling to write your term paper, prepare a report, or some other writing assignment, the following might help.
Here’s the problem.
- When we think about writer’s block, we tend to focus on the actual writing.
- How can I write more words, how can I write faster, and, of course, how can I get started?
- We’re looking at the mechanics of writing. Press keyboard, enter words, and so on.
But if you think about it, you’re concentrating more on on typing, than the writing.
The reason you’re doing this is, I suspect, that you feel a pressure to write a certain amount of words (say a 2,000-word essay) as quickly as possible, so you can move onto the next subject. Anxiety eats away at your efforts, undermines your efforts, and sabotages your success.
How do we avoid this?
It’s to do with planning.
A lot of writing is pre-writing and then re-writing.
- pre-writing is what you do BEFORE you start and
- re-writing is what you do AFTER you’ve written the first draft.
The *writing* is what happens in between.
Think about this for a moment.
Instead of seeing writing as one atomic activity — a single task— look at it as a series of inter-related activities, like cogs in a wheel.
The goal then is to identify the cogs and get them to work together.
Here’s something else.
I’m not a great writer. I’m ok. But I’m quite good at planning and editing. Maybe this applies to you too.
Maybe your strength is planning the essay before you start, or reviewing it after you’ve completed the first draft. If this is true, then play to this strength. Use your editing skills to refine your essay.
Let’s rewind a second.
The title of this article is ‘Students – how to overcome writer’s block’.
Let’s look at this for a moment.
Pretend you have to write an essay on King Lear. It needs to be 2500 words. Where do you start?
Instead of charging at it, hammering at the keyboard, break it down into smaller mini tasks.
- Watch the play to understand the storyline.
- Write down sentences that strike a chord with you.
- Keep these words in your pocket or on your phone.
- Look at them during the week. Let them simmer away in the back of your mind.
- Listen to MP3s, interviews with actors, podcasts and so on.
Write down a one-page summary of the play. Nothing fancy, just get it on paper.
Do this by hand, by the way. Somehow it works better.
Divide your essay into an intro, main, and conclusion.
In the main section, create several sub-headings. One idea, one heading.
Start populating each of the sections.
Don’t worry about grammar, format, and spelling too much. Get words on paper.
Let it sit, even for 30 minutes.
Expand of the sections.
Start to link the sections so the narrative flows from one section to the next.
Add quotes and references.
Complete each section.
Let it alone.
Try to let it sit overnight.
Review in waves.
- The next day, review the essay. Don’t do it in one single review session.
- In the first pass, study the meaning of the text. Does it make sense?
- In the next, look at the grammar.
- Then the typos and formatting.
- But don’t do them all at the same time.
If you’ve skipped to the end of the article, here’s the key point.
You can’t write about what you don’t know. You can try, but the assessors will know.
Instead, learn everything you can about the subject BEFORE you start. Investigate, research, explore.
If you do enough research, the words will flow. Actually, you’ll probably have too many words. A nice problem to have.
Writer’s block is really thinker’s block in disguise.
Research the topic, then plan how to write it. No more fear of a blank page.