As a student, and a writer, I find that I have almost no time to work on writing that isn’t for school. Being an English major I spend most of my time reading a multitude of novels, and then writing papers on them, on top of that I work, and pretend to have a social life. My time to write for myself is limited. What’s worse, when I do have a moment to write, I’m finding myself with writer’s block.
Every writer in the world has experienced writer’s block at one time or another. The infuriating feeling of not knowing what to say, or knowing what you want to say but being unable to find the right words, can be one of the most stressful moments in writing. As frustrating as it can be for a well-seasoned writer, nothing compares to a student trying to overcome writer’s block. Most seasoned writers, who are getting paid for their work, are used to writing stories with a deadline. Over time they learn strategies that help them, because they have no choice if they want to get paid. The situation is very different, and a lot harder to overcome, when you’re a student. There is a certain pressure on student writers to be constantly writing and submitting their work, so they can build a portfolio and get their name out, in hopes of being published one day.
It is certainly not easy to find time to live up to the pressures put on you as a student writer. Very often class work will take precedence over writing, and it could be weeks before you can get back to it. Of course, there will always be times as a student when you want to work on your own writing, but you’ve just done a bunch of homework and there’s a party on campus calling your name. After stressing about school work, who wouldn’t pick the party? I know I would, it’s always important to find a balance. What if you skip the party but you just can’t seem to write?
Imagine you have an open hour in your schedule that you want to dedicate to writing. That hour comes around, you sit down in front of the computer, but nothing happens. That great idea you had just isn’t there, what do you do? Well, if you’re anything like me, you try and will your mind to do something, only to become frustrated by the lack of action. Of course, you don’t want to waste time because this is the one open hour you have, but it’s just not there. Over the years I have tried every method I could find to overcome writer’s block. The few methods that I have found to work, I have combined into a quick and easy list for you. Hopefully these methods work for you as well as they worked for me.
Before you write:
Go somewhere you can think.
Where are you trying to do your writing? In the middle of a common room that’s crowded with people? Your dorm with your roommate chatting on the phone next to you? Often the problem isn’t you, but what’s going on around you. Sure, you may be able to write a paper with people around and have no problems, but personal writing is different. You need to be somewhere completely free of distractions to get your creative juices really flowing. Being alone will help you focus in on what you’re trying to write.
If you can’t be alone, create a bubble.
Not everyone has the luxury to be completely without distraction, especially if you’re living on campus. If this is the case for you, create a bubble for yourself. Get into your most comfortable clothes, buy yourself some earplugs, and go somewhere not many people will be passing by to distract you. I personally like to go to the quiet floor of the library on campus in a small room to get my work done. If silence drives you crazy, create yourself a playlist, or use a premade list on Spotify. It should be filled with music that’s not so catchy you will sing along, but not so boring that it will have you falling asleep.
Before you sit down to write, have something that you want to work on. I always carry around a notebook, so I can write down ideas as they come. Prior to writing, go through your notebook and see what ideas you think you can expand on. You might find that you are able to combine one idea with another. I find that using a phone to keep your notes takes away from the creativity. Physically writing down your ideas can often lead to them expanding and you are more likely to remember making the note. As a society we do so much typing into phones we often forget what we’ve even said.
While trying to write:
Do a few breathing exercises to gain focus. While you’re breathing, imagine you are letting out all the negative, or useless, thoughts inside you, and inhaling creative thoughts and channeling your favorite writers. If you’re like me, and not the best at meditating, there are apps available to help you center yourself.
Reread your favorite story.
I know this seems like a strange one, but every writer has a story or poem that brings out their creative side. Any time you’re trying to write, and you’re stuck, reread the story. It will help remind you why you love writing so much and why you find that story to be so great. Occasionally, I take it a step further and I type up my favorite poem. I find this helps me get the feel of what the writer was feeling.
I know this might be the only moment you have to work on your writing, but if nothings coming, you can’t always force it and you shouldn’t want to. Forcing yourself to write can have negative consequence by possibly making you more frustrated than before.
It’s okay if you’re not able to write that day. As frustrating as is can all be, just remember that good things don’t come easy. Be patient with yourself, plan to write the next day. If you stick to it, you will be able to overcome writer’s block and finally write the piece you’ve always wanted.
– Alanna Manser