Many of our classes require us to write papers, Thesis papers, research papers, response papers, etc. These are a way to gauge what we have learned and to provide us with a different way of learning. If you are like me, there comes a point when you are simply so overwhelmed with the amount of writing that needs to get done, that your brain shuts down. Writer’s block kicks in to full gear and even your creativity is completely staunched. There are many causes for writer’s block, and in order to overcome this horrid creative stagnation, it is important to understand it.
Often this block is caused by your own brain telling you that you couldn’t possibly do this… “I am a moron”, ” I have nothing to say”, “there are no original thoughts in my mind, that would possibly make this paper any good”, etc etc. This voice telling you all of these lies is called a critic, or judge, or editor (different people have different names, mine is called ‘ The Judge”) This is the part of your brain that is afraid of being wrong or being judged by others, at times the fear is so great that your very harshest critic is yourself.
Anxiety can play a roll in a creative block. The important thing to remember is that YOU are stronger than your judge. Stop taking yourself so seriously, writing is an expression of your inner life, regardless of the topic you are writing about, it should be a reflection of who you are and what your thoughts are. By this I mean, if you are a goofy individual, or witty, or sarcastic, or bubbly, or morbid; let that show in your writing. Stop trying to sensor yourself. If after letting your personality run wild on paper, you still find yourself unable to reach a topic, or unable to get the words out, try these exercises:
Stream of Consciousness–
Open up a blank page on Word or pull out an old notebook or a blank sheet of paper, and simply let loose. By this I mean every thing that comes to your mind, regardless of expletives, or insults to yourself, the assignment, the world, the room etc, write it down. Don’t worry about spelling, or punctuation, or if what you are writing makes sense, or even if what flows out are even words (onomatopoeia is an acceptable outlet as well), this process is for you and you alone, no one sees this unless you want them to.
“Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite:
“Fool!” said my muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.”
― Philip Sidney
This is a method used by my room-mate who writes creatively and often needs to develop character personalities for her stories. However the exercise can be applied to general writing. Sketch out your theme or themes, give the work a personality of its very own. This can be done using words, charts, drawings, etc.
“If she was going to write a novel, she felt defeated before she began, because someone might be coming along to pick it apart, looking for symbols like The Conch or The Whale, which seemed to have mythic proportions.”
― L.L. Barkat
Tumblr is a great place to get inspiration (no not your personal tumblr, don’t get lost in the world of blogging you will never get your work done), Use this new tumblr as an easy way to look up relevant images and quotes and writings etc. This will help inspire you and get your creativity flowing. Creating a collage or poem based on your topic or based on what you are writing about can help silence the unwanted judge.
“writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
― Charles Bukowski
Make an outline of your paper using only the main points of each paragraph. Sometimes going back to the basics of high school papers are what you need in order to get your focus under control. keep things simple and short, for now.
“Make a list of all the varieties of aliens you can come up with. (And if it’s less than 3,000, then THE PEARS ARE LAUGHING AT YOU, MY FRIEND.)” -Scott Westerfeld
― Scott Westerfeld
Take a break-
I am a very strong believer in breaks. There are times when your mind is full of so many ideas or criticisms or every day life, that you can not focus. This can get very overwhelming. A thirty minute to an hour breather can work wonders. Do menial tasks, get a snack, color, if the weather is nice, go outside and breathe the fresh air. Clear your head and release the tension that has built up on your neck, and shoulders. It can be easy to get side tracked with this break though so be sure to set a timer.
“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”
― Hilary Mantel