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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Combating Writer's Block

Writer’s block: the scourge of English students (and writers, of course) everywhere. I recently drafted a twenty page paper for a class and experienced every possible phase of writer’s block: from staring pensively at a computer screen to lying on the floor in the fetal position covered in papers. Luckily, I survived, and I also learned some important things about productive writing along the way. Read on for my 6 tips on kicking writer’s block’s butt.

1.  Speak it out
Often when writing, I know what I want to say, but not how to write it in a sophisticated manner. I've learned that when attempting to craft sentences word by word, I get bogged down in minute (and superfluous) detail. When I want to clearly communicate an idea, I imagine as if I’m speaking the idea to my mom (or anyone, really). When you speak, you automatically have an ease of communication that you often loose when trying to write. There’s always room for revising diction and syntax later, but first: talk it out. You’ll be amazed at how easily your words flow out, now just put them into to writing and then revise, revise, revise!
2.       Know your task
This is what I call my Writing Reality Check: you are not attempting to write the next Great American Novel. You’re not J.D. Salinger (yet), you’re not Mark Twain (maybe someday); right now, you are a high school English student. This might sound discouraging and as if I’m settling for mediocrity- but reminding myself of this has helped me keep moving on countless occasions. Your teachers are not expecting a Hemingway-caliber paper and you should not expect that of yourself. Holding yourself to impossible standards is an open invitation for writer's block. So accept your assignment for what it is: a learning experience.

Preach, sister. 

3. Read the work of an author who’d you’d like to emulate.
When getting inspiration for an essay, I read the work an author whose writing I admire. I don’t seek out any pieces that are on my specific topic (such as a sample essay sent out by the teacher), because then it’s incredibly difficult for me to think of my own, new ideas. Instead, I focus on the tone and style of a favorite writer. This is a great way to get inspired and also to avoid the feeling of unoriginality that often accompanies studying a sample essay.
4.       Set up a writing sanctuary
When writing my big paper, I struggled with concentration. It’s too easy to get distracted by a magazine sitting on your desk or the T.V. show that your parents are watching,so I sought out a place that could be devoted to writing, and only writing. And thus, my writing sanctuary (a.k.a. the room of my college-aged brother), was born. Everything I could possibly need for writing- chargers, extra lighting, papers, books, blankets, hair ties, snacks, water- I gathered in the Sanctuary. Then, I’d shut the door and get to work, in a quiet, supply-stocked, distraction free place.
(Luckily I finished my draft before my brother came home for Spring Break. R.I.P. Writing Sanctuary, I’ll see you again during college essays.)
5.       Treat yourself well!
Of course, frequent stretch and snack breaks are a must. Getting your blood flowing will revive your creativity and give you the energy to power through. Be sure to rest your eyes as well, staring at a glowing laptop screen for 4+ hours is a strain.
6.       If all else fails: swear off of your favorite things.  
This one gave serious results. I swore off my favorite foods, my favorite shows, my favorite websites, and all social media until my paper was in the hands of my English teacher. It took only three days for me to meet my goal, at which point I celebrated promptly with ice cream and a Downton Abbey re-run.

NOTHING is better than this moment. Remember, starting is the hardest part!

Post by Allie C.

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