Preventing Writer's Block While Doing Papers

No matter how good of a writer you are, creative juices don’t flow 24/7. Writing college papers is a whole new level of time management and persistence (and sometimes they weigh heavily on your grade). So what do you do when your mind is blanking?

Create Your Perfect Writing Space

The environment around us dictates our mood, focus, and overall ability to write. Just like everybody needs a distraction-free study space, a writing space that caters towards your personality is equally important. In order to do this, you must know yourself. What distracts you? What makes you focused? Are you able to work in busy environments? Quiet environments only? Can you listen to music or watch videos? Can you work around other people? Some people have no issue writing on their beds in their dorms yet, others find that environment distractive. If you find yourself procrastinating in your room while writing, try the lounge. If that is not working, try the library. If you need complete silence or are on a strict time frame, try booking a study room. You don’t have to limit yourself on campus either. Some people receive inspiration in an outdoor environment on the quad, a park, or in a local coffee shop.

Spread Your Work

Your paper might not be due for a few weeks, but doing it little by little will save you grief. Keeping things until the last minute will only give you more writing to do in a condensed time period. This means more opportunities for writer’s block. On the first day you receive the paper, visualize what you want to write about (or if your professor assigns the topic, look into the main points/evidence you want to articulate). Plan to do a little bit of the paper each day, whether it be research, creating an outline, gathering sources or simply brainstorming for new ideas. This way, when the deadline approaches, it will be easier to finish stress-free. Try writing the opening paragraph early, it will serve as an outline for the rest of your paper. Always check back to make sure what you are writing is aligned with what you said in your introduction. Once you finish, you are a step closer to completion. Even if you do not touch the rest of your paper for a while, you will at least have a beginning to work off of.

Avoid Edit Overload

Once you begin your paper, turn off the editor in your brain. Don’t worry too much about correcting your grammar, structure, or flow until you reach the end of your first draft. Remember that your first draft is called that for a reason. It will not be perfect. If you’re worried about how your paper is sounding, make a comment on your document to return to later. What is most important during your first draft is to express all the ideas in your head as well as touching upon each required topics in the paper’s rubric. Once you finish, your paper may sound like an explosion of variously coherent ideas, know that this is okay. When we feel crunched for time, we tend to over-edit our first draft. Once your first draft is done, step away from the computer and come back later with a clearer, edit-ready brain.

Set Goals and Step Back

Create goals for yourself, but make sure they aren’t excessive. It is unreasonable to try and write an entire paper in a day without major stress. Plan ahead of time but make sure to give yourself breaks. Sometimes we have a surplus of emotions (especially during exam weeks), so much so that we need time to recharge. When you’re drained of creative juices, step outside and leave the paper behind. Go somewhere fun or inspirational to reset your brain. A clearer mind is better for any kind of writing, whether academic or creative.

Use Simmons Resources

Whatever you do, don’t feel bad! Writer’s block happens the best of scholars and there’s always help if you need it. Reach out to your professor if you’re having trouble coming up with a thesis or main argument. Even if you’re 90% sure you know what you’re writing about, your professor could have some valuable input or ideas you never thought of. Also, make sure you utilize the Simmons writing center. Book an appointment in advance and have an expert read it over. They are the best at catching grammar mistakes and even giving you some inspiration if you still need it.