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6 Tips to Overcome Writer's Block

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by Erin Connelly (subscribe)
I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published January 7th 2013
Easy steps to tackle the white blank page
Every writer experiences moments of writer's block. The following are some well-tested methods for generating ideas and kick-starting the writing process.

Photo by Maky Orel.


1. Free-Writing

Free-writing has been around for decades, but was most enthusiastically promoted by Peter Elbow. Although the technique may not result in perfect sentences, it can be a useful starting point, especially when completing works that require a bit of creativity.

The following is the basic method of free-writing:

1. Start with a blank piece of paper.

2. Write for 10 minutes without thinking, stopping, editing, or re-reading what you have written.

3. Read what you have written and see if any ideas, words, or images can be developed into more structured phrases.

4. Begin the free-writing process again with the ideas that you've taken from the first attempt and so forth.

The CUNY WriteSite provides an online space for free-writing and will time your writing (up to 3 minutes).

2. Carry a Notebook

Ideas often don't appear when you would like them to, i.e., when you're staring at a blank computer screen. More likely, ideas will arrive when you're relaxed or doing another activity, so always carry a notebook to immediately write down your thoughts or experiences that would make a good story.

3. Find a Good Editor

Everyone needs a second pair of eyes to read their work, not only to spot the typos that inevitably show up, but to give honest feedback about the style, readability, and tone. H.G. Wells quipped that there is "no passion in the world equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft" and a good editor will thoroughly enjoy assisting you to present your work in the best way possible.

4. Write Constantly

Writers write, so goes the saying, and practice is the best way to enhance your skills. Find a way to get words on paper whether through free-writing, journalling, formal instruction, blogging, or other more creative pursuits. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is one example of many online sites, which offer hundreds of free and useful writing resources.

5. Share with Others

Never keep your writing to yourself; no one enjoys critique, but it will ultimately pay off if you learn to accept and apply it. A blog or writing group is an easy way to let others interact with your writing. Furthermore, consistently reading the works of others in your field, whether peers or published authorities, will also help you to understand what is expected from your own writing.

6. Forget about Perfection

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor," states author Anne Lamott, and rightly so, as all materials are subject to revision and improvement. Every work is a work in progress, even those works that have been published. To believe otherwise only creates unrealistic pressure and unattainable expectations.
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Why? 6 simple ways to become a better writer
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