The Curse of Writer’s Block

Answer me honestly.  Is there anything more annoying (and downright infuriating) than a dreaded case of writer’s block?  Your brain futilely scavenges its deepest crevasses, searching for something—anything—to put on the paper.  Your fingers lie restlessly above the keyboard, waiting for an impulse.  Your eyes stare into some foreign universe 1000 miles beyond your computer screen, looking for an inspiration.  Yet half an hour later, the only thing you’ve accomplished is opening up a blank Word document.

I can’t even begin to recount all the times in which a vicious bout of writer’s block has completely thwarted an attempt to compose an essay.  In fact, almost every piece that I write is interrupted at least a handful of times by the simply inability to construct a meaningful thought.  It’s not uncommon for me to stare at a blinking vertical line for 20 minutes (or more), as the computer anxiously awaits my next sentence.  Almost invariably, I end up giving myself an impromptu pep-talk to keep my brain from totally shutting down.  I remind myself that, frustrating as it may be, good writing takes time and most certainly a great deal of thought.  Moreover, sloppily rushing through a paper on the first draft often just means more work during the revision process.

Although conquering these mental blockades sometimes feels like an impossible task, I have come up with a few simple tricks for getting my creative juices pumping again.  First and foremost, going for a 15-or-so-minute walk generally provides the relief and temporary change of scenery that the mind has been craving after staring at a screen for so long.  I often find myself meandering around the multiple levels of the library, scarfing down a quick vending machine snack while I give my brain some valuable time to decompress.  Another useful trick is to write down literally whatever pops into my head—regardless of how mechanically incorrect or even irrelevant it may be.  Simply getting some ideas flowing (and having actual proof it in the form of words on the paper), often gives me the spark of energy and confidence I need to get myself back on track.  Lastly, if all else fails, I talk to someone!  Whether that means simply bouncing some ideas off a roommate, or actually making an appointment at the Writing Center, hearing another person’s perspective is oftentimes enough to light a new literary fire.  With any luck, at least one of these simple tricks could come in handy the next time you find yourself hitting that seemingly insurmountable wall.  And just remember: you’re not alone.

-Tom Jantz

P.S. Ironically enough, this may have been the one thing I’ve ever written where I didn’t actually fall victim to this terrible curse.

About BentleyWritingCenter

This is the official blog of the Bentley University Writing Center staff.
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