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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at JMU chapter.

As an English major, I am no stranger to a heavy writing workload. Essays, discussion boards, and annotations pile up quickly, and nothing feels worse than opening a new document for an assignment and drawing a total blank. So, how do I push through writer’s block? What do I do when I am all out of motivation? I use the Pomodoro technique, switch modalities, or turn my editor brain off. 

If you haven’t heard of the Pomodoro technique, let me give you the rundown. This technique is a tool used for time management, where longer periods of work are broken up by short break periods. This functions in two ways: it makes the task feel less daunting, and it preserves your brain power so you can complete more work over a longer period of time. When I have a big essay and can’t seem to find that motivation to start writing, I spend 20 minutes outlining, and then take a 5-minute break to watch TikTok or read a few pages of a book. Then I spend 20 minutes on my introduction and take another 5-minute break. I follow this cycle until I have a rough draft of a paper. This technique is particularly useful if you are easily overwhelmed by an intense workload; you can always see the next break on the horizon and having it in your sight propels you forward. You can also adjust the time periods according to the kind of work you’re doing; maybe 50-minute work periods and 20-minute breaks are more your style! Just remember to truly give yourself a break and clear your head during those rest periods. 

As a college student, I am pretty much glued to my computer. Papers and assignments are all submitted online, so I often forget that writing by hand is an option. But, when I’m really struggling to type, I switch to writing on paper. This abrupt change in modality shocks my brain back into focus, making the material fresher and easier to engage with. This method could also work conversely; if you typically write by hand and are experiencing a total block, try opening up a Word document and seeing if the shift changes anything for you. More often than not, something as simple as putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys!) can make a world of difference. 

One of the best things I have done for myself as a writer is identifying the separate writer and editor parts of my brain. Only when I have fully turned off the editor part of my brain and ignored any internal urges to go back to “fix” my work as I write it, can I truly write effectively. It can be easy to get caught up in tiny grammar mistakes and the “edit-as-you-go” mentality, but you are ultimately doing more harm than good. The best way to get words on the page is to just write like nobody, including yourself, will ever read it. You can go back and tear it to pieces afterwards, but at that point you will actually have something of substance to edit. 

Writer’s block is, in many ways, inevitable. Nobody ever gets through life without experiencing that feeling of dread while staring at a blank page. However, by finding tips and techniques that work for your unique productivity style, you can mediate some of that immediate frustration. I recommend trying out the Pomodoro technique, switching up your modalities every once in a while, and learning to harness your writing brain and editing brain as separate entities that will be of use to you at different points in the writing process.

Grace is a junior at James Madison University, majoring in English and Writing, Rhetoric, & Technical Communication with a minor in Creative Writing. She enjoys reading contemporary romance novels, doing yoga, and listening to music!