How to Overcome Writer’s Block

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I’m no psychologist, but I know that writer’s block is something that we all struggle with. As college students, we are expected to churn out X number of papers each semester. And though I enjoy writing, it is definitely not easy, especially when you have to write about something that doesn’t interest you.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get out of that rut and get working:

Choose a topic that interests you

Choose the topic you’re the most interested in or one that you’re most familiar with. In college, we have the privilege of pursuing an academic discipline that we’re passionate about, but there are those few classes that make you question whether your major is really for you. Personally, having to write for those classes are more challenging than the others. And while we may not always get to choose our paper topics—or we do get to choose but from an extremely limited scope—choosing a topic that either sounds excitingly foreign or all-too-familiar will benefit you. This leads you to your next step: research.

Do tons of research

Read up on your topic as much as possible—and qualitatively! If you have time, you can spend it reading what forum threads think about your topic, but if you don’t—which I think applies to most of us—skip the blog/Reddit/Twitter posts and go straight to JSTOR and its other useful counterparts through our online Mack Library.

Talk to people

Bounce off ideas with your classmates, professors, parents, friends and even yourself (you could even talk to your pet guinea pig while it runs on its wheel). The more you verbalize your thoughts and explore the topic, the more ideas and perspective you’ll get and be able to add into your paper, and the less lethargic and directionless you’ll feel.

Plan, but be flexible

Apart from simply organizing your paper in the Intro-Body-Conclusion format that we’re all familiar with, make it a habit to make notes to yourself. Jot down notable ideas, websites, statistics, etc., in each segment before, during and after doing your research. This will help you stay focused on your topic and give you more exploratory aspects to overcome the block. Maybe you’ll end up changing your thesis four times—and that’s perfectly fine. Remember that nothing is set in stone until you attach that Word document and hit the Submit button.

Go for a run

Personally, getting away from the desk or laptop and going outside for a run is when I generate the most ideas. When my brain is allowed a break from the pressure of this deadline or that presentation, it voluntarily revisits the ideas that it’s been presented, and when I get back to my desk, I am usually able to continue where I left off or eliminate clutter and present my ideas better.

Give yourself a break. Go for a jog, a walk, a tea break and maybe even bake a little. You’ll never know what your brain might come up with that will help you in writing that paper.


Written by junior Phebe Chew for the Academic Resource Center