Writing can be a daunting task. How many times have you sat in front of a computer screen, locked in a staring contest with a blinking cursor? Don’t let writer’s block get you down.
Essentially, writer’s block is the problem of either not knowing what to write or being unsure how to get what’s inside your head onto the page. Frustrating, sure, but not a permanent state. Just remember: at its core, writing doesn’t have many rules! Of course you’re expected to follow grammatical conventions, to capture readers’ attention, to say something meaningful–but not right away.
You can approach writing in whatever way works for you. You can use shorthand. You can jot down incomplete sentences and flesh out your ideas afterward. The hardest part of writing, in many respects, is getting started.
Next time you need to write something, try rebelling against what you think the writing process is supposed to look like. Try these strategies to get your creative juices flowing:
- Dictate your ideas instead of typing them.
Use an app (or your computer’s microphone) to speak your ideas aloud and spruce them up later. For example, the Dragon Dictation app lets you email scripted dictations to yourself. Talking doesn’t carry as much pressure as writing. Think of dictation as a stream-of-consciousness exercise: you’ll likely need to go back and add in proper punctuation or clarify ideas, but at least your thoughts will be on record. Even better, the physical act of typing–and possibly getting bogged down by the stress of having to make your words “sound good”–is taken out of the equation.
- Draft sections of your paper to be assembled later.
When you sit down to write, don’t worry about perfect organization from the get-go. You can write the middle of your paper first and leave the introduction for later if you want. Or you can start from the end and work your way to the beginning. Write one paragraph and take a break; you don’t need to bang out all your content in one sitting. When you draft freeform, your paragraphs are puzzle pieces to be arranged in the right order. Tackle the pieces one by one. As long as the finished product proceeds logically, it won’t matter how it came to be.
- Read lots of material in your subject area.
Skimming professional literature will help you get a sense of the compositional tone expected in your writing. You’re probably reading relevant material already, but make a point to focus on the actual writing itself, rather than just the messages it’s conveying. You’ll begin to identify common sentence structures and patterns of organization. Once you’ve absorbed some stylistic techniques to apply to your own work, try first to emulate, and then to personalize, the written sense of voice common to your discipline.
Your turn: what are your tried-and-true tips for battling writer’s block?