Do’s and Don’ts of Beating Writer’s Block

Whether it’s a ten page essay or an email, everyone suffers from writer’s block at one time or another. For those ready to give up, here are four tips to help reignite your creativity.

Do: Find Change of Scenery

If your brain seems stuck in one place, it might be a good time to move your body. Even if it’s only to a different room in the house, working in new surroundings may be the switch-up your brain needs to get going again. If you’re working from your bed (or somewhere else you typically relax), it’s an extra good idea to move. Psychology says that we associate different locations with certain activities, so it’s beneficial to keep your work space separate from your break space. Otherwise, your brain may think it’s time to unwind when you’re actually striving for the exact opposite. If you’re trying to write an essay from your favorite video gaming spot, it might explain the blank page in front of you.

Do: Set a Time Limit

When you have writer’s block, it may seem like you’ll be stuck at your laptop forever, especially if it’s the last thing on your agenda for the day. To counter this, give yourself a time limit to write as much as possible. By working in brief chunks of time – fifteen minutes, for example – there’s an increased sense of urgency, and a higher chance that you’ll actually start writing. Although you probably won’t finish your project in such a short amount of time, you’ll end up with a strong start to work off of. The best thing about this strategy is that it’s repeatable: try working in cycles of twenty minutes, with five minute breaks in between.

Do: Take a Break

Stepping away from a project can feel like admitting defeat. In reality, it’s anything but. Recognizing when your brain needs a break is a skill, and it’s just as important as the rest of your professional know-how. Try taking a walk, exercising, or having a snack. These activities don’t use a lot of brain power, but can help you feel refreshed and ready to work again.

If you notice that your brain is still working in the background, embrace it! Sometimes the best breakthroughs come when you’re not expecting it. However, don’t put too much pressure on yourself during this time – it is a break, after all.

Don’t: Try to be Perfect

Have you ever had an idea, but refrained from writing it down because it didn’t seem “good enough”? The idea of writing a polished, submission-ready draft on the first try is an appealing one, but usually does more harm than good. Like the example above describes, this perfectionistic thinking can sabotage you before you even begin, leading to an all-too-familiar case of writer’s block. More often than not, writing something – even if it doesn’t meet your personal standards – is better than nothing. Remember that first drafts are rarely (if ever) great. They become that way through the revision process. So let go of your standards and start writing – it’s nothing your future self can’t fix!

Beating writer’s block can feel impossible, but there are many solutions to overcome it. If you’re still having difficulty, the UMBC Writing Center meets with students at any stage of the writing process.

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