Written by Deborah Sogelola
Anyone who has ever written anything has undoubtedly fallen into the pit of writer’s block at some point or another when writing an essay, a blog post or even a message in a happy birthday card. As a writer there are many challenges I face, some of which include finding the patience to spell check, be aware of my tone and stay true to my voice.
Recently, I struggled with coming up with ideas to write about for Walk of Promise. When I googled how to get past this hump, none of the articles were really helpful– while some offered reasonable advice, other suggestions were rendered useless by my lifestyle. One website suggested I go for a walk out in nature, and while that might have worked under different circumstances, finding green space is almost impossible when you live in downtown Ottawa. But, over the years, I’ve thankfully found some ways to overcome writer’s block which I will share with you!
Free Write: Get a blank piece of paper and start writing down words that come to mind when you think about whatever subject matter you’d like to cover. During the process, some words may seem irrelevant at first, but eventually they will become more focused and specific to the topic. Take a step back and look at what you’ve written. Try to piece it together.
I’ve found that especially when writing long posts, or essays, a free write is almost always beneficial. Similar to brainstorming, when doing a free write, I jot down (or type) everything I’m thinking in regards to the topic, but in phrases. Don’t worry about sentence structure, repetitions or the flow of your ideas, as you continue to write, see where your sentences take you, or explore the subject matter of one of these phrases; this could be your topic.
Research the topic you will pursue/have chosen and visit interesting websites that pertain to it. If you are a writing an article about college lifestyle it helps to look at what others have written about it. However it is one things to seek inspiration and it’s another to plagiarize. The point of visiting other works and websites is not to steal what someone else has written, but to see what has been done and how you can put your own spin or perspective on it.
Give yourself a deadline as a huge contributor to writer’s block is distraction. We all go through the “I don’t want to write”, or “I can’t develop my ideas” phase, but getting distracted doesn’t help the writing process. I‘ve found that turning off everything: my phone, my T.V, any and every shiny thing that could keep me from achieving my goal etc., and giving myself a 30 to 45 minute block of time to just write whatever comes to my mind, usually helps. After this, devising another block of time just to revise and refine my ideas is also helpful.
If you find yourself just staring at a screen, taking a break to refresh and have a change of scene can be the help you need. I know what you might be thinking, ‘but you just said to give yourself a block of time to focus’, this is true, but giving yourself a chunk of time to focus is sometimes very beneficial. Be cautious though, as this break has the potential to be ineffective if you take it for too long; you might just tire yourself out and never get back to your writing. Make sure to keep your break short. A mini food break, or get a drink, or reading a chapter of your favorite book, are all activities that will keep your break running for the right amount of time. You can also watch a 30 minute television episode, just do whatever makes you feel relaxed.
A majority of the time the barrier to our creativity ourselves. Half the time we’d like to write something and have it turn out great with just a few basic edits, and like that, (we hope) we have a masterpiece. But more often than not, holding a rigid view of what we hope to achieve hinders our success. We need to stop worrying about sounding perfect or always having the right words at the first try. You need to sit with your pen and paper, or computer, and write. Allow your words and ideas to flow, and remember that nothing will ever be perfect the first time. You’ll have to go back and edit and re-word certain things. Let go of the idea of perfection.
Writers block happens to the best of us from the seasoned writers to the once a year essay writers. What’s most important to understand is that writers block is not about a lack of ideas or creativity, it is more of a mental challenge and can be overcome by recognizing what you need : be it a change of locations, taking a break or eliminating distractions. Overcoming writers block is all about getting yourself in the right head space to come up with ideas and tap into your creativity that’s been there all along.
Deborah is currently a Communications student at the University of Ottawa. She is a lifestyle blogger for The Berries and has written various articles for HerCampus.com. When not obsessing over blog content she can be found reading, shamelessly watching The Real Housewives and binge watchingScrubs.