5 Tips to Help You Vanquish Writer’s Block

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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash.

This post was written by Kendell Bergeron, a senior Undergraduate Consultant with majors in Economics and Accounting and a minor in English.

We’ve all been there. You might be sitting at your desk or in a coffee shop with a paper due in a matter of hours, Word document open at the ready… and all you can do is stare at your blinking cursor. The diagnosis is in: you seem to have a nice case of writer’s block.

Maybe you feel like you’ve been working on your draft for hours and you’re stuck on revisions. Maybe you’ve taken lots of notes on your source texts and outlined your paper but you can’t figure out how to start. Maybe you haven’t even thought about this assignment yet and you found this blog post at 9pm with an 11.59pm deadline impending so you want me to stop beating around the bush and get to these lifesaving tips! I hear you. Take a deep breath. Let’s do this.

  1. Start where you’re confident.

Most of us write papers from the beginning. Often, that’s a good place to start. But sometimes the best way to get a draft rolling is not the introduction or even the first point of your argument. If those sections are feeling stale and uninspiring, try writing the part of your paper that interests you the most!

Just by getting those fingers typing and your brain juices flowing, you might finish your favorite section of the paper and realize that you’re more motivated to complete another section that you were stuck on before.

  1. Find the strategy that’s right for you.

Reality check: writing is a process! And even more importantly, figuring out the best writing process for you takes time and practice. If you’re feeling like a deer in the headlights when confronted by a blank Word document, try jotting down some thoughts that you want to write about in bullet points or in a more formal outline. Follow the process that works for you and be patient.

Some writers like to create a detailed outline to follow. Some writers like to start drafting right away and see where they end up. Personally, I like to write an overview outline and then employ a strategy that I call “the crap draft.” When I remind myself to expect imperfections and that I’ll have time to revise my writing before I submit it, I put so much less pressure on each word that I type! I can write a first draft without slowing myself down by obsessively editing along the way. It’s just one step in the writing process.

  1. Give your brain a breath of fresh air.

If perfectionism isn’t your problem but your brain still feels like a brick that can’t tell the difference between symbolism and a semicolon, this might be a good time to take a break.

You could go for a quick walk, literally letting fresh air wake up your brain and enjoying some soothing silence. You could take a power nap or make a cup of tea. If you want to stay in a productive zone, try using a different part of your brain than you use when you’re writing. If you have any classes that focus on quantitative reasoning like math, science, or business, do some homework from those subjects. Or answer emails! By taking time to step away from your paper, your mind will feel a lot fresher when it’s time to start again.

  1. Make some space.

With so many brilliant thoughts swimming around before we can get them down on paper, our heads can feel overwhelmingly jumbled when we’re trying to start writing. Take a moment to think about creating the workspace that helps you think through your ideas most clearly.

Do you focus best when you’re alone or with the accountability of a study partner? Does it help you to be comfortable on the couch or do you work better at a desk or table? Does your best thinking happen in the morning, before dinner, or late at night?

If you don’t have options apart from working in your dorm room right now, even taking a moment to calm the chaos by making your bed and clearing your desk can make a huge difference! Being in a physical space that’s tidy and focused can make our mental space feel more organized and approachable too.

  1. Talk it out.

It’s usually easier to explain all that you want to write in your essay out loud than it is to write everything down for the first time. The best tip we can give you: make an appointment with the Writing Center! Our tutors love to ask questions about your ideas and help you process any points you’re feeling stuck on. Whether you’re paralyzed by writer’s block just looking at the prompt or feeling like you can’t possibly stare at your draft for another minute, we can help you brainstorm or talk your way through it.

We’re even offering extended hours this semester, so you could make a 9pm appointment and talk to a tutor online from your dorm room! But if you don’t have a chance to visit the UWC before your deadline, try talking it out with a friend or even recording yourself on a voice memo and writing down what you hear yourself say.

And with all these tips, remember to have some grace for yourself. Writing isn’t easy for anyone and starting is the hardest part! You’re equipped now with some surefire strategies to vanquish the nefarious nemesis that is writer’s block forever. Good luck!

 

 

Author’s bio: Kendall is a senior from the Pacific Northwest with majors in Economics and Accounting and a minor in English. She loves a rainy day with a very large mug of tea and a book—her most recent favorite is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. You’re likely to find Kendall making another cup of coffee, doing yoga, creating content for her cat’s Instagram, or trying new recipes for her food blog.

Quarantine Routine: How to Create a Sense of Normalcy When Everything is NOT Normal

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Well, let’s just begin by stating the obvious: this semester doesn’t look like how you planned. In all likelihood, you are reading this sitting in your childhood bedroom, wondering, “Gosh, why do I still have Star Wars sheets on my bed, and why does my mom still display all of my little league trophies in our living room?” Or perhaps you are still stuck on campus, looking at your painted cinderblock dorm room walls wondering if you could pad them, because deep down you’re asking yourself, “How many more to-go boxes from Penland before I go insane?”

 

We’re right there with you, friends. COVID-19 has certainly disrupted the carefully laid plans of both mice and men. For those of you who were preparing to graduate this spring, we mourn with you over the loss of a formal graduation ceremony. For those of you who are over the moon about the new pass/fail policy, we rejoice with you! But this isn’t a time to give up and lose hope, no matter what situation you are in.10 Coronavirus memes to cheer you up – DutchReview

 We want to share with you today how to create a sense of normalcy in the midst of this chaos. It might feel futile to create a schedule right now. As the great comedian Jim Gaffigan has joked: “Why won’t I make my bed? For the same reason I don’t tie my shoes after taking them off.” We understand the inclination to just weather this storm and hibernate with Netflix, but we encourage you to think big picture: finish the race you have begun. Finish well.

 

The best way to finish well is to create some routines. We’re not talking about totally scaffolding your days but implementing a few daily practices will help you find a rhythm. Routines will help you sleep better, feel better, and maybe, just maybe, find some joy in the midst of all this uncertainty. Here are Baylor UWC’s tips for creating daily practices. Don’t necessarily do all of them! Pick one or two to start with, and go from there.

  1. Wake up and go to bed at a regular time each day. This is a very simple practice and will help prevent sluggishness. Your body thrives on regularity, and regular bedtimes/wakeups help set your Circadian rhythm, which influences a lot of your body’s other systems, like metabolism, energy levels, and sleep cycles. So dust off that alarm clock!
  2. Limit screen time. We know this is a difficult one with classes all online, the constant barrage of email, and the tendency to fill time with all the social meedz. But if you can create a few technology blackouts throughout your day, this can actually help lower anxiety and improve sleep. Many people have reported chronic headaches and increased anxiety due to the rise in screen time. One of the best things to do is to have a device cut-off time. Start small: one or two nights a week try to power down your laptop and phone well before bedtime and stop checking email and social media. This lets your brain know it’s okay to turn off for a while. Consider reading before bed or listening to calming music or an audiobook instead of binge-watching Love is Blind until you fall asleep.
  3. Move your body. Right now, a lot of us have necessarily become more sedentary than usual. We’re on the couch, in our beds, or seated at desks all day long. Pry yourself off the sofa and go for a walk! Or, if you feel especially stir-crazy, go for a jog, find some yoga flow videos on YouTube, or kick it up a notch in your living room with some dance cardio or CrossFit circuits. Anything you can do to stay active during this time will clear your head, keep you healthier, improve sleep, and feel more yourself. This is a great time to head to a local park or walk around your neighborhood.
  4. Do Your Best for This Season! We know that with the pass/fail announcement, it’s tempting to just coast for the rest of the semester. We would urge you to choose the path of integrity, which will look different for each student depending on the circumstances. Do yourself and your professors a favor: honor their time and yours by working hard, resting hard, and sticking to the commitments you made before the world turned upside down. This might mean writing the most incredible prose in the time you now have, or it may mean committing to simply completing assignments if your home life is a bit hectic. Whatever “best” means for you right now, do that! You’ll thank yourself in the long run for choosing the path of integrity, rather than the path of least resistance.
  5. Schedule an appointment with the University Writing Center! We know you all still have papers to write, job applications to fill out, and personal statements to craft, so schedule an appointment with one of our tutors! The UWC has gone fully online, but we are just as eager to help you write to the best of your ability. Head on over to mywconline.com/ to set up an appointment today. We can’t wait to work with you.

Do you have ways that you’ve built some normalcy back into your life? Have you found rhythms or schedules to help you through your days? Have you picked up any fun new hobbies or skills to pass the time? If so, we’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your thoughts on the suggestions above, as well as any fun tips or tricks you’ve found to make life feel a little more familiar.