Each and every one of us go through something that’s called writer’s block at some point in life, whether it’s when you’re writing a thesis, writing an essay, writing a novel, writing a text, sometimes you just lose your train of thoughts, or you just lose the motivation to keep on writing.
In today’s article, I’m going to give you 9 practical steps that you can use to overcome writer’s block. I’ve used all of them whilst writing my thesis. And they definitely work. And I think some of them, we take for granted. And I think some of them we just don’t realize is something that would actually help us.
So keep reading if you want to see how to overcome writer’s block.
- Keep on writing and do not edit: So make for progress, which means don’t edit as you go. Just write whatever comes to your mind. Even if it sounds like it doesn’t make sense. Just get that’s the thoughts on paper. Do not edit, I think sometimes we end up with the temptation of editing. And as a result, we end up spending so long on one point, we end up losing our train of thought.
So instead of trying to write an edit at the same time, just right now, there are some apps that can really help with this. And I believe there’s one less called ghost writer it does not have a backspace key, there’s a mode called the Hemingway mode. But it does not have a backspace key, which means you actually cannot physically go back even if you want to.
It just encourages you to write without stopping, without editing, without thinking, just putting your thoughts on paper.
Most of the times, the reason why you have writer’s block is because you’re constantly thinking about what is the issue with your previous point, while than thinking about how to edit it and make it sound better, in fact I’ll strictly encourage you not to even read what you’ve written until the end of the section .
- Analyze Previous Writing: So let’s say you’ve written a chapter and you’re stuck on your second chapter, go back to your first chapter, and just reread what you’ve written, read it aloud, read it to yourself, read it to someone else, read it sign at me and just rewrite the sentences that sound a bit clumsy.
This means that you’re not actively trying to think about new information, you’re just working on what you already have. So it should an easier task. And once you’ve done that you’ll feel more accomplished. And then you can move on to working on the second chapter.
So just take a bit of work that you have, even if it’s just a small paragraph, just take that try to edit it, refine it as much as you can, and then come back to thinking about something new, after you finish that.
- Forget about the point that you are stuck on, move on to a point that you find easy: Now let’s imagine you’re writing about two different aspects or two different methods in your thesis or your dissertation or your essay.
And one method you find quite tricky to explain. It’s quite technical, and it’s making you end up wasting half an hour just sitting there just not knowing where to begin.
But there’s another method that’s really easy. It’s quite simple, you know how to write it, but it follows on the method that you don’t particularly enjoy. Forget that method for now, skip it and move on to the method that you find easy, whether that relates to an idea whether it leads to a different section, in your in your writing, just leave that bit that you’re struggling on and move on.
A lot of the time, we tend to think that we have to write in order, we have to write the introduction first, we have to write the method second, and then the results and then the discussion. But actually, I started writing my methods first. I had written my methods months before my thesis was even due, just because I thought well, I quite like the methods, it’s quite simple as question 4 is not going to change, let me write that first.
And so what I actually came to was in my thesis, I had a nice method section that was obviously not edited, and it wasn’t great. But I had written something down that I thought was the easiest part.
So definitely don’t try to go in consecutive order, because that will lead you to just feeling blocked in one section and then never making it to the next sections.
- Move on to something easy: So let’s not even get into writing maybe there’s a diagram, use a draw or maybe use a think about a title. Or maybe you need to explain a really basic theory that you know of by heart and you just have to collect a few papers do that really simple, simple thing.
The thing that doesn’t really require much thought at all, no editing nothing. The point when I was writing my thesis, I felt really blocked and I just couldn’t write anymore. So I just thought, hey, let me write my acknowledgments. I hadn’t even finished writing my thesis at this point. And I just pulled out a new word document and I said alright, so who do I want to thank both my supervisor thing my parents that at least they got me writing because that’s a section I definitely know that I could do.
So I definitely would recommend going to a different section where you don’t really need much thought. But you know that you can get it done in a short space of time.
- Stop Thinking about the negatives: I know that when you’re writing anything, an essay, a novel, a book, whatever it is that you’re writing, don’t think about failing, don’t think about the fact that this doesn’t sound good, don’t think about the fact that you have so much more to do.
Quit the negative thoughts, you can let go of that negativity surrounding yourself, you can then stop yourself from being a barrier. At the end of the day, you have control over your own thoughts.
Whether you believe that or not you do, no one else can control your thoughts, you are the master of your own thoughts by telling yourself that I can’t do this, this writing is bad, and I’m going to fail. No, we’re going to pass this, my supervisor is going to hate it, you probably going to manifest that in yourself, and you’re probably going to end up with bad work.
- Adopting a ritual behavior in your writing schedule: So if you’ve got writer’s block, you think to yourself, how many times have I got up so far, if you’ve been at your desk for 2-4 hours, then you’ve been at your desk for too long, and naturally, you are going to be blocked, there’s only so long that your brain can concentrate for efficiently without you then lacking.
So it’s really important that you think to yourself, well, I’ve been here for an hour and a half. What is it that I’m going to go and do now, go get a drink, go and go for a jog, go and watch some TV go and do something different, but make sure that you’re scheduling that in.
So tell yourself that every half an hour or every hour, I’m going to stand up and get a drink every hour, I’m going to stand up and talk to someone else, every hour and make sure that you do that every hour, you are less likely to get writer’s block because by the time you’ve got to the point where you’re starting to strain yourself a bit, you have to get up and do something, then you come back and you’re a bit more fresh than you were before you have just known that kind of fiscal note.
- Complete a chore: So if you are feeling like you’re approaching writer’s block, you’ve been in this block for minutes, hours, even days, do something different, go and do a chore, go and do some laundry. If you’re at home. What this does is it gives you a sense of accomplishment.
It shows you that actually I can do something, even if it’s something unrelated to what you are actually writing, it does kind of psychologically psych you up to think, well, I can do that I’ve accomplished something today. By accomplishing something you’ve allowed yourself to mentally feel successful, and who doesn’t want to feel successful doesn’t matter what it is in.
So by feeling accomplished, we allow ourselves to then want to bounce off of that and do another thing, and complete another task to feel accomplished and complete another task. And that sort of sets a tone for the rest of the days. So do something of complete something allows you to feel accomplished, and then go back to your writing and hopefully you’ll be in a better mood or better zone and you’ll be more likely to get into the writing straightaway.
Another tip that I found really, really helpful that I was taught during my PhD is to just write about anything.
- Write about anything: So don’t write about something that you are writing about, write about a completely different topic. Something that I wrote about was how to boil an egg, or how to make an omelet, or how to boil a kettle, how to make a cup of tea, something that has nothing to do with your PhD or your writing.
But it’s a skill that you are able to write about really quickly, very fluidly and without having to stumble. Now one thing that you can do is set yourself a timer. Give yourself 10 minutes, open a new word document and just get writing, talk about every single step try to go into as much detail as you can try to edit try to make it sound really, really good. But just get into the flow, make sure that you’ve got yourself writing, what can happen during writer’s block is that you can get to a stage where you haven’t written anything about half an hour, you’re just thinking and just sitting there you’re not actually writing.
So your hand and your brain haven’t coordinated in a while and it can be quite hard to regain that coordination. Again, this is another technique where you are sort of teasing your brain in a way you’re sort of teaching your brain you’re sort of tricking yourself into thinking that you’re writing and lastly, if you are super stuck.
- What I recommend is taking some inspiration from someone else’s work: Let’s say you’re writing a thesis and you’re writing the introduction section let’s say and you’re really stuck on how to introduce a certain topic go look at a thesis that has written a similar a topic or research paper that has kind of a similar topic and analyze their work, look at how they’ve structured things really pick up as much as you can take notes of their choice of words, take notes of the choice of nouns that they use, and the kind of language they use and the structure, and then try to translate that into your own work, never copy. That’s one thing that I wouldn’t recommend doing.
But definitely taking inspiration from someone else’s work is a great skill. This is what I definitely did a lot. I would ask a postdoc or my supervisor in the lab for an example of work the previous student had completed, and then I would sort of look at it try to understand the structure, try to understand how they written everything, try to understand the layout, and then sort of take inspiration and write my own essay or my own dissertation, my own lab report in a similar way.
So I really hope that I gave you some useful tips to be able to overcome writer’s block, it does not mean that you don’t have the knowledge, it does not mean that you’re not a good writer. If anything, some of the best writers and the best authors on the planet have experienced writer’s block, it’s a normal, and it’s a completely normal thing. It’s definitely not a reflection of you or your capabilities.
Just take time out to re align your thoughts to realign your emotions and then come back to the fresh mind and you’ll definitely be completed. Don’t forget to leave me a comment and let me know about any other tips that you have used or that you’d recommend for overcoming writer’s block.