Shoving Aside Writer's Block

In a prior post, I offered tips about ways to improve your writing process. Numerous students have told me the tips benefitted their growth as writers.

Now I want to turn to writer’s block. To be clear, I don’t believe in such a thing. Unless you are physically unable to type or write by hand or to dictate to your phone, you can write something. Of course, not everything you write will be good, much less usable in its initial form. However, I will acknowledge that sometimes you might feel stuck, might feel overwhelmed. What might you do? Here are six suggestions, only one of which involves writing.

Write Around the Paper.

This strategy can take several forms. You might write about why you’re frustrated and stuck with the writing task. What, exactly, is challenging about it? The length? The components of the task? Try to pen specifics on paper. Scribble your complaints. Vent your emotions. In that writing, you might even discover an angle for the assignment.

Exercise.

There is no shortage of writers who swear by physical activity (walking, running, biking, etc.) as a means not only to stay healthy, but also to gather ideas. Unless you’re playing tennis or five-on-five basketball, you can generally allow your mind to wander while exercising. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy running so much. Make exercise an opportunity to multitask.

Complete Chores.

Life involves menial chores important to our daily living: doing laundry, washing dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, straightening a room, cooking a meal, etc. Use those chores as a time to think through the writing task that’s troubling you. Rather than sit with your laptop open, the TV on, your phone beside you, all while complaining that you can’t figure out anything for the paper (after which you have little to show except frustration and a frazzled state), fold your laundry and let your mind consider that writing task.

Talk About It #1 (A roommate, friend, significant other, family member).

You talk to those closest to you about many things, and they are more than willing to listen, even about a writing task that is causing stress. Simply put, that person cares for you. As is often the case, talking through difficulties with someone else can help you vent your frustrations, but in addition, that person might ask just the right question, make the right observation that sets off those neurons.

Talk About It #2 (UMHB Writing Center).

Writing tutors are students just like you, and they will not only serve as a sympathetic ear to your difficulty but also serve as a genuine aide to your success. Tutors can help you at any stage of the writing process, from outlining to drafting, from revising to editing, even from complaining to brainstorming. Schedule an appointment for the Writing Center here: http://success.umhb.edu/writing-cru

Talk About It #3 (Your professor).

Keep in mind that your professor has created the assignment with which you’re wrestling. Faculty are also required to hold a minimum of ten office hours per week, time set aside to meet with students. Take advantage of that resource since your professor wants you to be successful in the writing task.

Confessional Postscript

This blog post snoozed on my to-do list for a month, but only on Friday, Dec. 29, did I make any movement toward an idea. I began by talking with my wife—a very wise woman indeed—about the post. She asked what I had written about before, and after I told her, she offered some ideas, two of which might be good for future posts but not this one. Later as I lay in bed, scrolling through my Twitter feed (a bad habit, I know), I “discovered” what I needed to write. The lesson? Be prepared for ideas.

The Department of English promotes the knowledge and appreciation of literature, introduces basic concepts of rhetoric and argumentation, and helps students master effective writing principles. If you are passionate about creative writing, communication skills, or critical thinking, we invite you to visit our website for more information.