It’s Friday afternoon – the deadline your professor set for that research paper is fast approaching; the problem? You haven’t even started writing! If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone, even professional writers have to employ methods of getting past the invisible obstacle of writer’s block to finally get their words on paper.
Here are some helpful tips on how to overcome writer’s block, from the experience of professional writers and some psychological factors.
A Modified Version of the Misunderstood Hemingway Method
The actual Hemingway Method is referred to as the Iceberg Theory, a writing technique in which Ernest Hemingway proposed minimalism and adaptation. However, this idea is commonly sidelined to a more popular quote attributed to Hemingway, where he encouraged writers to indulge in spirits while writing. If you are of age and dealing with a creative writing task, having a beer or two might be helpful, but not recommended for any form of academic work. Another interpretation is to give yourself some time to take a mental break, relax, and do something else you enjoy before beating yourself up about the writing assignment. Giving yourself time off can bring you back to the task with a fresh mind and willingness to get your ideas on paper. The main downfall – having too many breaks, which just amounts to procrastination, and delaying your final product to the last minute. In that case, keep reading!
Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Another cause of writer’s block is constantly thinking that your writing isn’t going to be good enough oftentimes while comparing yourself to others. For example, during peer draft reviews in the same class, you may have concluded that your fellow classmate was the perfect writer, resulting in a feeling of inadequacy. Or your teacher may have made too many edits on your rough draft and discouraged you from continuing. However, it’s important to understand that your professor wants you to improve, and if honesty requires an abundance of edits and comments on your documents, then it should be welcomed. It may also be an issue of confidence, often it helps to do something unrelated that you’re good at to get a win in for the day, even if it’s unrelated to writing. The tangible accomplishment can help translate some of that confidence into your writing.
Don’t be Afraid of Word Limits
Oftentimes, it’s the assignment instructions that subconsciously impose writer’s block. You have to use in-text citations instead of footnotes this time? The line and paragraph spacing has changed? How are you supposed to come up with 4000 words about the impact of diets on passing legislation in the 1930s? With a proper literature review, you might even be saying that 4000 words isn’t enough! Don’t feel like you have to write up to the word limit in your first try, it’s completely fine to go over. Actually, it’s recommended that you go over. This means you’ve accomplished one of the requirements and can now give yourself an opportunity to properly edit the document. Finding that too large of a word count prevents you from even starting? Write chunks at a time – try writing in Notepad instead of a blank Word document.
Chat with your Friends
Writing can be tedious in the beginning (edit – it’s always tedious!) and like other challenges in life, talking about it with a friend can help you develop your ideas. Who doesn’t want to hear about 100-year-old eating habits during a lunch at the local restaurant? Sharing your research findings and talking about any new facts you’ve learned can help you develop ideas or record anecdotes that can later be translated into your work. This is also a good approach because academic writing can feel very isolating, but it doesn’t have to.
Just get started
All it takes is getting started somewhere – if the assignment requirements are a hurdle, begin writing parts at a time, even if they aren’t directly contributing to the paper. For example, create an outline, then jot your ideas down on paper. Brainstorming is extremely helpful, and when you use these tools to organize your ideas, it makes it easier to start the process of writing your paper. Like other things in life that seem daunting, getting started could the beginning of consistency, mitigating the impact that writer’s block has on you.
Lastly, constructive feedback from a community of writers is always a bonus, so if you’re looking for feedback, it can also benefit you to participate in online writing forums or clubs on social media. By using these tips, you may find that waiting until the last minute is a thing of the past. For more writing tips, check out our Common Writing Mistakes Found in College Papers and Writing Tips for People Who Hate Writing.