You, the hero of the story, are stuck, staring at a blank Google Doc / computer screen / phone screen / etc. No words are entering your mind. Your enemy? Your keyboard staring you right back in the face! But you have to write COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS. OMG, what to do!?!?!?! Who will win this standoff???
In case you didn’t know, Merriam-Webster defines writer’s block as:
a psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece
Now you’re saying, well, “duh!” And now you are thinking, “Help me!!!” But wait...even professional writers get cold feet. Case in point -Masterclass says:
Self-doubt is actually a big part of writer’s block. In the 1970s, Yale researchers Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios studied a group of “blocked” professional writers in a variety of disciplines, from screenwriting to poetry. After several months, the researchers discovered that there are four main triggers of writer’s block:
Apathy. These writers felt constrained by the “rules” of writing and struggled to find their creative spark.
Anger. These writers were often narcissistic and would get angry if something they created went unnoticed.
Anxiety. These writers worried that they weren’t good enough.
Issues with others. These writers didn’t want their writing to be compared to others’ work, resulting in a fear of writing anything at all.
So how can you overcome this writer’s block? Deadlines are approaching! Your schoolwork is also crying out for attention. What to do??? So many things to do, so little time!
Do Something (else) Creative
If you paint, draw, play music or do some other creative activities - go for it! Get into your creative flow! Tapping into the creative part of your brain will help you tackle writing with greater confidence.
Brainstorming is an important part of pre-writing - preparing to write something. Gather up your ideas and before you eliminate any or start to judge or edit - just keep jotting ideas down!
Freewrite by Hand
Some of you might be accustomed to writing things on computers or even on your phones. What about trying to write things by hand? Yes, the good old-fashioned pen-to-paper way! Renowned author and writing teacher,Natalie Goldberg, says:
keep your hand moving," and she says that continual movement is key to the success of the practice. Don't go back and edit, she says. Don't worry about grammar and punctuation. And, perhaps above all, "lose control." Goldberg argues that freewriting is a way of getting in touch with “first thoughts,” which she says “have tremendous energy. It is the way the mind first flashes on something. The internal censor usually squelches them, so we live in the realm of second and third thoughts, thoughts on thought, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first fresh flash.”
Getting your heart rate up with some exercise will get your mind on other things - other than the college applications process. Moving up your energy levels will refresh your mind and soul to help you tackle writing tasks with renewed vigor!
Change of Scenery
Whether you are exercising outside or just sitting somewhere enjoying a nice view, having a change of scenery will give your brain something new to focus on. Lifehack says:
Move to your deck, a coffeeshop, a friend’s back bedroom, a co-working office space…wherever you don’t usually write. See if inspiration hits.
Under shelter-in-place conditions, your options may very well vary, but, the concept remains the same.
Lower Your Expectations: Accept the “Bad” Writing with the Good
Many times when people are trying to write - and when I say people, that includes teens - they get very worried about writing badly. Sometimes that worry is downright paralyzing. But you may need to give yourself permission to write badly before writing anything worth keeping.
And so, in order to be a good writer, I have to be willing to be a bad writer. I have to be willing to let my thoughts and images be as contradictory as the evening firing its fireworks outside my window. In other words, let it all in — every little detail that catches your fancy. You can sort it out later — if it needs any sorting.
Hope you enjoyed these tips and use them in your writing process!