International Writing Centers Week: Writer’s Block

We’ve all experienced writer’s block. The longer you stare at that blank page, the more impossible writing seems. Our tutors have to write a lot, so we asked them what they do when the dreaded writer’s block strikes.

Step Away

“I step away from my writing and do something that will take my mind completely off of it, like clean or cook. Usually I’ll be in the middle of whatever activity I chose and something will strike me, and I’ll be able to return to my writing.” -Lisa, English and  Journalism BA student

“Sometimes I read other material for inspiration or I do something completely unrelated to writing like playing with my dog or exercising just to change up the energy!” – Areti, English PhD student

“Step away, do something that treats yo’self, and then return. Mind you: while you are treating yourself, have the haunting, ever-impending weight of the ideas you are searching for distract you from the task at hand :)” -Jimmy, English PhD student

“Move! If I don’t have time to head out for a quick run, I’ll drop for some push-ups or run up and down the stairs in my apartment building (yes, our neighbors love me, why do you ask?)—whatever it takes to literally get the blood flowing to my brain. When I sit back down, I’m less fidgety, more focused, and ready to channel my energy into writing.” -Julia, Marine Biology BS student

“These days, I shove past writer’s block by listening to podcasts for a bit.” -Anna, Business Administration BA student

“Sometimes I’ll pick up a favorite book — usually an author whose style I particularly like — and read a few paragraphs. This helps me get the flow of words back into my mind!” -Ivy, English BA student

Mix it Up

The Writing Center-6.jpg“If I have writer’s block, I switch over to pen and paper. There’s something about writing on paper that changes the way you think. Even if what I write in unusable, it helps me get out of my own way.” -Katie, Media Arts BA student

“I try to change my location. If I’m writing at home, I’ll head to a coffee shop; if I’m at school, I bounce between my office and the library.” -Lauren, English PhD student

Outlines to the Rescue

“I always retreat back to the outline when I’m really stuck; sometimes you can find out just why that is the case.” -Zack, English MA student

“I love making outlines – this is the first step to my writing whether or not I’m struggling with writer’s block. Even if your mind is mostly blank, it’s not hard to start an outline with some of the basic ideas or key phrases that apply to your piece. Then you’ll naturally begin to critique the order of the ideas, fill in the details… and pretty soon you have a whole paper finished.” -Aja, Philosophy and Math BS student

“I restate the main idea I’m trying to convey. Often, when I get stuck, I’ve forgotten where I’m going. Refocusing helps me find my way again.” – Kayla, English BA/MA student

“Outline and free write. The more I outline the closer I am to knowing what I’m trying to say. Also sitting down with some friends and talking out my ideas is a great way to get my brain moving.” -Abbie, English MA student

“I think about what I’m generally trying to say and write that down, giving myself permission to let go of worrying about how my writing sounds. Once I have the content on the page, it’s much easier to work on tone and flow.” -Taylor, International Affairs BA student





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