So it’s Thursday night and you have an essay due tomorrow morning, first period. You had attempted to start it at the beginning of the week to get it out of the way, but when you opened up that Word document on Monday you just weren’t feeling it so you decided you’d just start the next day. Come Tuesday night, and you still couldn't quite manage to summon up that spark of inspiration so you closed the document again and vowed to complete the essay tomorrow night. Wednesday night arrived and you managed to squeeze out a few sentences but when you reread them two hours later you realised that they sound terrible so you deleted them in a flurry of frustration. Needless to say, the document you closed out of that night was still empty. 

And so, it’s Thursday night, you’ve been staring at a blank Word document for 2, nearly 3 hours now, the same one you’ve been opening up and closing five hours later each night the past week. All your social media notifications are turned off, no potential distractions in sight, your full focus and attention on the mission at hand to finish the essay by midnight. And yet, still, nothing comes to you. 

You, my friend, are suffering from writer’s block. 

As Google puts it, it is ‘the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing.’ Symptoms include:

  • A feeling that something is blocking your creativity, causing an inability to think of new ideas
  • Sudden incapability to form coherent sentences
  • A feeling that an overall ability to English has deserted you
  • A lot of half-written sentences
  • A lot of backspacing
  • A whole lot of staring at blank Word documents (or pieces of paper)
  • A gradual descent into hopelessness
  • Questioning how you ever wrote an essay in the past
  • And the list goes on…

It’s a terrible phenomenon that strikes at the worst of times and is experienced by the best of us. However, it’s not the end of the world when you get writer’s block. It’s not as if all your writing and creative thinking ability has been sucked into a void, never to return. Writer’s block can be conquered, and will be conquered, if you follow some of these tips: 

MAKE A PLAN

Often it is quite difficult to jump into a writing task straight away, no less during an episode of writer’s block. Even though your mind has seemingly been drained from all creative thinking ability, try to create a plan or an outline of what you want to write. Start off simply, with the topic of what you are to write about and the main things you want to discuss or, in the case of a creative piece, such as a narrative, some plot points you want to include. The plan doesn’t have to be overly complex, just something you can slowly build upon. This can cut down the amount of hours you spend staring at blank Word documents as you now have a starting point, and a simple structure you can follow in your time of trial. 

DOT POINT

In a time where you feel like you’ve lost all ability to form coherent sentences (see above: symptoms of writer’s block), don’t attempt to. In dot points, just write whatever comes into your mind that comes under the topic you want to talk about. Don’t worry about being grammatically correct, you can fix that up later. Oftentimes, your thoughts won’t even come in the order you’re planning to structure your piece of writing. The early stages of the essays that I wrote whilst battling writer’s block have always been a mess of non-sequential dot points of unfinished trains of thought with terrible grammar. It sounds like a mess (because it is), but at least you will have something written down.

Before you know it, these little dot points of thought will gradually form the basic structure of the piece of writing you are trying to finish. It’ll only take a little bit of editing and filling-in-the-gaps to connect up all the ideas that you have written down in the dot points to form fully coherent paragraphs. 

TRY NOT TO REREAD WHAT YOU'VE WRITTEN

When you have managed to write a few meaningful sentences, you will find the urge to reread them over and over again in order to remind yourself that you have at least made some progress (even if just a little). It’s normal, considering that during writer’s block it is a great achievement in itself to procure up one understandable sentence, so managing a small block of coherent writing is worthy of celebration. However, if you’re like me, you will end up taking way too much time editing or, even worse, just deleting everything you have written and ending up back where you started: nowhere.

It is also usually the case during writer’s block that you perceive everything you write as the worst thing you have ever written, resulting in a whole lot of frustrated backspacing. However, if you were to leave it and read everything back the next day you might find that what you wrote wasn’t as bad as you thought. So try to avoid constantly rereading; look forward and try to persist with finishing your essay instead of scrutinising the small details of what you’ve already written and potentially deleting some quality work. 

JUST BEGIN

The real key to defeating writer’s block is just to begin writing. The longer you give in to it and postpone your writing, the more difficult it will be to overcome later on. Once you start, it’ll make it easier to get back into the flow of writing. Sometimes, it’s the image of the blank page that is blocking your creativity and ability to write!

In the end, when you read back all of your pieces of writing, you won’t be able to differentiate between the ones that you wrote during a period of writer’s block and the ones you wrote in half an hour under a flurry of inspiration. So the next time you’re sitting at a computer staring at a blank document for 2, going on 3 hours on a Thursday night, struggling to begin writing that essay that’s due the next morning, just know that what you’re experiencing is fully capable of being defeated. 

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

- Jack London

- Written by Anna :>

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