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5 Tips for sprinting past writer’s block

For most writers, whether they need to start a new project or pick one up that’s been left on the back burner for a while, their biggest writing challenge tends to center around getting started, says Margarita Huerta, Assistant Professor of English Language Learning/Early Childhood Education, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Huerta, who will be presenting a 30-minute webinar entitled, “Writing With POWER” for TAA’s September Virtual Dissertation Writing Boot Camp, shares her strategies for getting past the “block”:

1) As Peter Elbow says, “Write when you are not in the mood”. Just sit down and do it.

2) Dump. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just write out everything and anything that comes to mind without worrying about editing or grammar. Later, go back and refine/edit/parse out the good stuff that came out. This is the whole “separate generating from editing” idea.

3) Revisit the project regularly (daily) in small segments of time. It is much easier to get creative juices flowing when the brain is looking at something repeatedly for shorter segments of time than visiting a piece of writing just once a week/month/semester.

Jocelyn Nelson, who teaches at the East Carolina University School of Music, says her two largest writing challenges are sitting down to write and “the insane urge to write a perfect sentence”. Here’s how she gets past her “blocks”:

5) Sitting is not necessarily a good idea. If I stand up, stretch, pace while I’m thinking, or go ahead leave the screen completely for a 10 minute walk, I find that wakes me up and keeps the ideas moving. I don’t think I’ll get a treadmill, though. I think if I combine that with writing I’ll forget I’m on it and fall off:)

6) The insane urge to write a perfect sentence every time I get a good idea slows me down to the point of paralysis. I’m better off if I brainstorm a page or so of words and phrases; just concepts that I know I want to include. I also get some specific data on that brainstorming page as well to save time later. Then I save the creation of “perfect” sentences for my more intellectually clear moments in the mornings with my first cup of tea, and after I’ve had time to mull the overall picture.

What strategies do you use to overcome your writer’s block? Share your comments in the comments area below.