Doyle Online Writing Lab

Writer's Block

Writer's block can be caused by a variety of reasons. All of the writing center tutors are training to helped students who are plagued by writer's block. In addition, Academic Support Services offers counseling and advising for students experiencing academic difficulty due to writer's block and other problems.

In the simplest scenario, writer's block occurs because a student does not understand the assignment or has not done enough pre-writing on a subject. Writing center tutors can help take you through pre-writing exercises that will allow you to develop a thesis and structure for your essay. In more extreme cases, however, writer's block is caused anxiety. Often at Reed, perfectionism gets in the way of being able to complete an assignment. If you are suffering from this problem it is important to remember to get help and that a draft is just that--a draft.

Here are some quick tips that may help:

  1. Try free-writing on the topic first. Sit down with an egg timer and write for 15 minutes non-stop even if you only write "this is dumb, this is dumb." Usually out of sheer boredom you will start writing something on topic. Don't correct anything: instead, make notes to yourself, like ADD DETAILS HERE or FIX THIS LATER. When you are finished, reward yourself with coffee, chocolate, or a quick break.
  2. If you have already done free writing and are now stuck again, cluster your ideas in order to come up with a working thesis and/or outline. Writing tutors can help you with clustering.
  3. If are stuck on a section, skip it and come back to it later.
  4. If a paper is due Saturday at 5 pm, start the week before and schedule an hour a day for writing. Having more time decreases the anxiety that every word must be golden, since you will have time to revise.
  5. Make an appointment with a writing center tutor three days before the paper is due. This will give you a deadline to work towards and will still allow you to revise after you meet with the tutor.
  6. Work in a space where you won't be distracted or interrupted.
  7. If you are writing your thesis, make sure that you
    1. give yourself time off each week
    2. make reasonable deadlines
    3. break down each section into small, manageable parts
    4. set up a daily schedule
    5. reward yourself regularly
  8. Even if the paper/chapter isn't perfect, turn it in ON TIME.

Also check out our resources on procrastination.

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