Whether you’re writing a research paper on the ethics of psychology, an analysis of fire management measures, or a thesis on digital piracy and security, writing can be difficult. Add in a full-time job and the demands of modern life, and sometimes it can seem impossible.
The secret to overcoming writer’s block? Sit down at your computer and write. If you wait until you’re inspired, you’ll never do it. Fortunately, methods are available to make it a little easier on you. Here are seven tips to overcome writer’s block.
1. Enhance Your Workspace
Perhaps you have a designated office in your home where you can close the door and study, or maybe you’re doing homework with your kids at the dining room table. No matter your environment, make it a place you want to be. Declutter or try putting out fresh flowers or a picture of what inspires you.
Take into account the time of day you are most productive. If you aren’t a morning person, don’t try to write in the morning. If you’re constantly restless, try writing while standing up.
In addition, consider the temperature and noise. If you’re uncomfortable, writing will be harder, and if you’re distracted, nearly impossible. Put on a comfy sweater and if you can’t deal with quiet, turn on classical music or white noise.
2. Use the Pomodoro Technique
Francesco Cirillo, developer of the Pomodoro technique, says people are most productive in 25-minute blocks.
Set the timer on your phone or download an app (search “productivity timer” in your app store). Then don’t let yourself be interrupted (that means no email, no getting up to get more coffee, etc.). Do whatever you need to do to sit tight and power through. After 25 minutes, take a much-deserved break.
3. Plan a Time and Make a Habit
Much of overcoming writer’s block is sitting down to work. In the book Re-Engineer Your Workday, author Rowena Hubble talks about John Grisham’s routine. Since he was working full days as an attorney when he began writing, he was disciplined about being at his desk to write at 5:30 am sharp and committed to writing at least one page. “These little rituals,” he says, “were silly and brutal, but very important.”
Put time on the calendar and commit to that time. You don’t have to come with ideas or inspiration, but you do have to show up and follow through.
4. Try a Writing Prompt
Remember in grade school when you would be assigned a topic that you had to write about for 15 or 20 minutes? Treat the beginning of your writing time the same way by using a prompt. Writer’s Digest has a section of its website dedicated to them.
5. It's OK to Be Flawed
Trying to write a perfect first draft is a surefire way to suffer writing paralysis. Don’t concern yourself with spelling or grammar or even good writing on your first draft. Just start writing.
In addition, use filler words. (Yes, this is the opposite advice you’ll get from an editor at the end stages of writing.) At the beginning stage, phrases like “due to the fact that” and “it is imperative that” could help you get to the idea you’re searching for, cites the Center for Writing Studies at University of Illinois. You can edit them out later.
If you’re an avid reader, you can glean inspiration from your favorite writers. Even if you’re not always reading, try cracking a book before you sit down to write. Read poetry for 10 minutes, a chapter of a book, or a short essay. This will put you in the right mindset to write your own words—or at least imitate those of your favorite writers.
7. Don’t Give It a Name
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), many psychologists don’t even believe that writer’s block exists. Psychologist Steven Pritzker told the APA that it’s “an artificial construct that justifies a discipline problem.”
Professor Paul Silvi told the APA that “naming something gives it power.”
So don’t acknowledge it. Sit down at the desk and prove it wrong.
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