Friday, February 24, 2012

The Many Faces of Writer’s Block

As an English major, writer’s block is my oldest foe. Beginning an assignment is the most daunting. The vast whiteness of a blank page can seem to stretch on forever while the blinking cursor of a Word document mocks my lack of ideas with every flicker. Fortunately, there are ways to ease the stranglehold writer’s block can claim over the brain.

I start by simply walking away – from the computer, from the assignment, from my room entirely. As counterproductive as this may seem, staying put only frustrates me further. Frustration fuels writer’s block, so in order to break the vicious cycle, I pace. Counting the number of steps it takes to get to the opposite end of the hallway or a complete loop of the dining room table is monotonous but steady. It’s easy to focus on, thereby blocking out the impossible assignment. With a clear head, I begin to consider the paper topic by asking simple questions. What needs to be proven? What points are crucial to the argument? How are these points connected? As soon as the first inkling of a thesis statement presents itself I write it down without a thought toward sentence structure, grammar, or word choice. It can be tweaked later. Having a topic sentence, impermanent as it may be, allows for an outline of the entire paper. Though potentially time consuming, this method loosens the grip of writer’s block, enabling me to get words on the page which, ultimately, is the biggest hurtle.

The death stare of an empty page is not the only form in which writer’s block makes itself known. Just like there are many variations of writers, there are many ways to keep them stumped. Boring or confusing topics often impede progress while stress or self-consciousness about writing in general can bring the process to a complete standstill. In any situation, however, taking a step back to gain a clearer perspective is beneficial first step.

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