Does this sound familiar? You sit down, intending to write, and 20, 40, 60 minutes later you’re still staring at a blank page? Writer’s block happens all the time. Rather than keep staring at that blank page, here are some strategies to help get the words flowing again.
Morning Pages is a common writing exercise developed by Julia Cameron. The idea is that every day, as soon as you wake up, you write three pages. Write down anything that pops into your head. Morning Pages makes writing a habit and prime your brain to write every day. They are supposed to be done longhand, but if you prefer to type instead there are websites that will track your work.
A Change of Scenery
Sometimes changing your location can make a difference. If your work allows you to be mobile, try writing outside your house or office at a public library or a different spot on campus. If you can’t go too far, change it up by writing in in another room of your apartment or even on the couch.
Go For a Walk
Going for a walk not only gives you a chance to stretch your legs, it’s also another way to get out of your normal environment. It can be easier to think while you’re not staring at an empty page. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to write.
Write Now, Edit Later
Decision paralysis often contributes to writer’s block, but remember, what you write doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. It’s more important to get words down on the page. You can edit your work later.
Get a Buddy
Talking to someone during the writing process can help you work through any tricky sections plus keep you accountable. Ask a friend to be your writing buddy or, if your university has a writing centre, see if they host a writing group you can join.
Try to make your writing time distraction free. When you sit down to write, turn off your Wifi, don’t check your email, and turn your phone off. Don’t even check your references at this point, just let the words flow. Reconnect again when you hit 500 words. While this method of writing is not sustainable, it can help get you out of a slump.
Do a Brain Dump
If having too many ideas is preventing you from writing, do a brain dump. Write all your ideas down so you don’t lose them and then start working through which ones are the best. When you read them over, a natural structure might emerge. Your brain dump will also come in handy later if you think you’ve run out of ideas.
Do Some Research
Sometimes writer’s block strikes because you don’t know enough about the particular subject. In this case, the best way to work past it is by doing additional research. Hit the books or talk to someone at your university with expertise in this area. They can offer tips about how to approach the problem and resources to check out.
Write the Easy Parts First
A simple way to get writing again when you’re feeling stuck is to write the more formulaic sections of your paper such as the methods or results. In a similar vein, if you find yourself stuck on a certain section, move on and come back to it later. Having made progress on an easy section, you will be more confident when you return to the place you got stuck.