A typical scenario: It’s the start of the term. Professors are meeting their classes for the first time and are explaining the syllabus of their respective subjects. They mention that the final project is a paper that’ll be due three weeks before the term ends. You’re in the class and you make sure to write that down as an important reminder. Flash forward to a month before the end of the term and your professor once again reminds the class that the final paper worth 25 percent of your final grade is due next week.
It completely slipped your mind so off you go, researching for your topic and opening MS Word to start your paper. You type in the cover page—your name, ID number, the professor you’re submitting to, and the date of submission. Ten minutes later and you’re still staring at the screen, hoping that maybe, if you look hard enough, words will start to appear and your paper will finish itself.
But that’s not what happens, right?
Scenario two: Your professor tasks the class with writing a paper, choosing one of the topics written on the board. To save yourself time, you pick the topic most familiar to you, the one that you deem the easiest to write. Five hours later, you have all these tabs open about your topic, and you’ve read each multiple times through, but somehow, you’re only three paragraphs into your essay. You have no idea what to add anymore but you can feel that the essay is missing something—not to mention you’re hopelessly beneath the required minimum number of pages. Helpless, you lean back, sigh, and mutter. “Writer’s block is awful.”
It really is.
As a writer for the official publication of the University, I can honestly say that having writer’s block is one of the worst things that can happen. It’s like standing between a rock and a hard place. There is no moving forward or backward. Writer’s block is a bane not only to writers, though, but also to anyone who has had to write an essay or paper—which comprises most, if not all, students in the University.
Speaking from firsthand experience, I know it’s annoying because you don’t know how to combine your ideas—despite putting together a list of potential concepts and paragraphs, you’re still unable to string them together into the result you need. You could drink as much coffee and stay up as late as you can, but if all that happens is staring out into the void or doing something else instead of the paper, then it’s all for naught.
People say to start as soon as the work is given, and they’re not wrong. However, sometimes there are other things that demand your immediate attention. One can reason that it is possible to deal with more urgent matters now and leave the paper for later—it is still a month away from the due date, after all. However, procrastination can often be the first step towards the dreaded writer’s block and should be avoided if possible.
Sometimes, though, writer’s block doesn’t come for any specific reason. It’s not always triggered by procrastination. Sometimes, it’s not why it strikes, but when. You could be starting your paper’s introduction or adding the finishing touches to the conclusion when you stop typing because you are at a sudden loss for words. On the other hand, having a paper where all the ideas just seem a scattered, jumbled mess that is difficult to follow can also be the result of fighting writer’s block.
So what now? Sadly, there isn’t an official way to get rid of writer’s block, although many people have different methods. A common one is to take a break for a few minutes to recharge, then to tackle the paper with a refreshed mindset. For me, nothing gets rid of writer’s block faster than a looming deadline. It’s stressful, yes, but it doesn’t compare to the euphoria felt when the paper is finished, printed, and passed.
Having writer’s block does not equal being a bad writer. Having no idea what to write or how to start is not necessarily a testament to one’s lack of writing skills. It happens to everyone. The difficulty of translating your thoughts onto paper or to screen can be frustrating, yes, but it should not hinder you at all. Perseverance is key; the frustration felt staring at an empty MS Word screen does not compare to the sense of accomplishment you get when you reach—or exceed—the required number of pages (and more importantly, when the pages themselves are filled with substance).
The aha! moment you get when everything is starting to make sense and your fingers start flying through the keyboard? Priceless.