Anyone who writes has experienced it at some point: you sit down at the computer, knowing full well that you have a deadline to meet for class or work, and stare blankly at the screen for hours wishing that something would magically appear on the page. It’s called writer’s block, and it is the bane of many people who need to compose.
It is important to recognize writer’s block for what it actually is: fear. Oftentimes it manifests as a lack of confidence that you have anything important to say, or that you might fail to convey the information correctly, or that you might write something that someone would give a poor critique. Writer’s block amounts to a fear of the page and of what you are preparing to put on it, as well as a lack of confidence in your ability to compose.
So, how does one overcome writer’s block?
Prewriting is your best friend no matter what kind of writing you are doing. Collecting information, drawing out a word web, listing your points, and creating an outline all work wonders when you are trying to overcome writer’s block. Just get started. Create groupings of all of the things that you want to talk about, and everything that you want to say about them, and watch your article or paper materialize before your eyes.
2. Find a Quiet Place
Ok, so maybe your living room isn’t the best place to try and hammer out that article. Running kids, television, ringing phones, and even the little divot in the wall can all add to writer’s block. Create a designated space at home where you know you can retreat for even just 30 minutes to work on your piece. Go to the library, and make use of one of their quiet rooms. Whatever you do, find a place that works, and when you start to feel that overwhelming sense of apprehension against putting text on the page, gird yourself for battle and head to your quiet little writing arena.
3. Just Start Writing
You will never get your text on the page if you submit to writer’s block. It is an enemy that can be overcome through tenacity and diligence. Even if you don’t know what to write, just writing anything can get your creative juices flowing. A big pitfall that many people fall into when writing is thinking that they should get it right the first time, and not need to spend much time in revision. This is rarely, if ever, true. The simple act of putting the words to the page helps you organize your thoughts and determine structure. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you must have a perfect first draft, because even if you think it is perfect, it won’t be. Instead focus on molding the skeleton of what will become a great piece of writing.
And, if all else fails…
4. Talk it Out
In the words of prolific writer and educator Howard Hendricks, “thoughts untangle themselves over the lips and through the fingertips.” If you can’t seem to organize what to write, talk it out with a friend, colleague, or other student. You may be surprised to find that as you speak to them about your subject matter, you use the very same words that you want to have printed on the page. Take a few notes as you talk, and then head back to your quiet place to put your writer’s block to bed.