Academic writing can often cause anxiety and lead to writer’s block. Students who are required to write essays, reports and dissertations at some point find themselves stuck, unable fill the gap and continue with their writing project. They get apprehensive about not being able to write something perfect and finishing on time. Writer’s block for students is normally caused by a psychological block such as fear. They may feel that the writing task is too big or pulling together a cohesive story seems impossible.
If you are supposed to submit an academic writing project and currently experiencing writer’s block, here are effective strategies that will help you combat this condition:
1. Set realistic goals.
Having realistic goals does not mean lowering your expectations. It just means dividing what needs to be done into sub-tasks so the entire project does not seem too immense or unattainable. When you achieve a realistic goal, you somehow feel confident and inspired to continue with your work.
2. Start fresh every day.
Plotting a writing schedule is helpful in managing your time and progress. However, when certain road blocks in your daily life prevent you from sticking to it, you don’t need to be hard on yourself. Instead of feeling guilty and becoming less productive, you can start fresh the next day. Commit to going through the schedule to the best of your ability even if you were not as fruitful in previous days.
3. Join a support group or engage in social writing.
Social writing does not mean collaborative writing, but basically writing in the presence of other people with their own writing tasks. When you write with others and discuss ideas with them, writer’s block may be avoided as you feel less anxious.
Joining a support group helps you stay motivated. If your uni does not have support groups, look for a writing buddy that will keep you accountable. Social writing aids you in setting realistic goals and devoted writing time.
4. Identify where you are stuck and ask for help.
The sooner you get help, the faster you can pull your project together. Remember that in order for your professor to help fill the gaps in your project, you have to identify which part/s of your essay or dissertation you can’t seem to finish. Make sure that you also prepare specific questions regarding the areas you are having a difficulty so your professor can offer solutions. While you’re writing down your questions, you will also be able to see which sections lack details or information.
5. Practice freewriting.
Freewriting is a great exercise especially when you’re having the worst case of writer’s block. Write without conscious thought, without caring about your grammar, spelling or topic for 5 to 10 minutes straight. It does not matter if you are just writing random sentences far from your topic as the main objective of freewriting is to get you moving. There is a possibility that most of the things you’ll write about will be deleted, but you’ll get the ball rolling. This is a good exercise to uncover ideas without the pressures of conventional writing rules.
6. Take down notes
When you can’t seem to organise your thoughts, write down ideas in phrases instead of sentences and paragraphs for the time being. It is important to write them down before you forget them. You may also express your thoughts through drawings, pictures, flow charts, and outlines.
7. Learn to accept when your work is good enough.
It is natural to aim for greatness. However, perfection can often ruin your creative juices. You will also lose valuable time and motivation to finish your project. In writing your dissertation, no matter how many times you amend it, professors will always question your arguments during your defence. If you are sure that your data is accurate, revisions will mostly be minor.
You don’t need to try to implement all the strategies at once. Choose something that makes the most sense in your situation. If all else fails, take a moment to relax and do the things that calm you down like eating your favourite food or watching a feel-good movie. Changing your environment may also help. Instead of just spending your time in your desk, move to a new location.