10 ways to break writer's block

Have you ever opened up your computer and stared at the blank, white void of a fresh, new Microsoft word document and felt a sort of terror?

Or you might have been halfway through a research paper and suddenly lost all interest or inclination to write.

How do you break your writer’s block?

Here’s a few tips to help smash through even the most tenacious of barriers.

1. Study for a different class.

When your brain centers on one subject for too long, you can lose focus. Once you’ve spent a little time away from your writing project, you can return.

2. Find a change of venue.

Writing in the same location can prove distracting, especially if you’re typing in your dorm room and your roommate has friends over. If you’re at home, it’s all too easy to prevent yourself from beginning the task of writing with distractions, such as TV, video games, and oh, you forgot to do that load of laundry–you should do it now, even if your paper is due at midnight!

A coffee shop can prove to be a comfortable place to write, especially if you need caffeine for inspiration. Relocating to a library computer can also help, especially if your focus improves with a larger screen. (It’s easier on the eyes, as well!)

3. Take a walk.

Viewing nature can help to refresh you and your brain. More than that, nature can help you relax. According to Wolch, Byrne, and Newell (2014), you can improve your health as you experience green spaces, even within an urban environment. Taking a walk can rejuvenate you, as well as your ideas. A stroll across campus (whether or not you visit the library) affords you some fresh air and some distance from your work so that you can return renewed. 

4. Read.

It may seem counterintuitive, but reading someone else’s writing (of any genre, including science fiction or fantasy) can help break writer’s block. Reading someone else’s writing can give you a sense of the rhythm of prose and a better understanding of how words fit together. According to Stephen King, “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.” Just remember–if you decide to quote the inspiration you draw from your outside reading, cite, cite, cite.

5. Make sure that you’ve attended to your body’s needs.

Taking on all the responsibilities of college is not an easy task, and it’s even harder when you’re pushing yourself to your physical limits. To function properly, your body needs water, food, sleep, and exercise to function at its best, as does your brain.

6. Put your computer on airplane mode.

If you’re finding that you are easily distracted by the internet, it may be time to put your computer on airplane mode for a while. The internet is a wonderful tool for many things: it allows us to communicate, to connect, and to research. But if it’s proving to be more distracting than helpful, it may be time to turn off your wifi for an hour or so.

7. Change your medium.

You might be accustomed to writing via a laptop, typing your thoughts directly into a document. If the blank screen of your laptop is intimidating–if it slams shut your doors of perception–then you might need to change up your medium. Use a notebook and pen or pencil to write down your thoughts: the kinetic action of writing might free your thoughts and break through your writer’s block.  

8. Do further research.

If you are having trouble formulating your ideas, you might need to do more research. Remember that the library has online databases, as well as the option to borrow books from other libraries!

9. Write in spurts.

Set a timer and put words on the page: just write whatever you are thinking. The aim of this exercise is to place words on the page. You can always edit later.

10. Visit the writing center.

Our consultants have been there. I promise, we have. We can help you gain a fresh perspective of your own writing and assist you in viewing your own blind spots. We can help you outline, research, and place your thoughts in order. Plus, it can’t hurt–right?