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Four Creative Ways to Defeat Writer's Block


So, you’ve been staring at that same essay prompt for an hour. You’re drawing a blank. You don’t know which one figure from history you’d invite to dinner for scintillating conversation. You can’t think of a single turning point in your life, or what page 217 of your autobiography would say. ACK!!!

You’re blocked. You’ll never finish this essay, never get the application in on time, never attend the University of Chicago, never become the world’s next ground breaking astrophysicist. All because of this one stupid essay prompt!

Allow me to assist. I’ve suffered from more cases of writer’s block than I have the common cold, and I know a few remedies. Like a cold, overcoming writer’s block is mostly about treating symptoms while your body (or subconscious in this case) takes the necessary time to heal itself. Here are a few suggestions to get those creative juices flowing:

1. Try a Change of Scenery
Take your lap top, or even an archaic pad of paper and pen, and go somewhere (preferably outdoors.) Sometimes changing your environment is all it takes to kick your brain back in gear. Just don’t go to Starbuck’s to meet friends, this will not help. Head to a favorite park or garden, a metro station, or the library.

2. Listen to a Favorite Song
Music engages your emotional self. Bonus points if you get up and dance. Release some tension and frustration.

3. Sleep on It
If you have the time and aren’t bumping right up against your submission deadline, set the essay prompt aside and sleep on it for one night. try not to actively think about it. Let your subconscious brain do the heavy lifting. Write free form first thing the next morning. Just write, anything and everything that comes to mind.

4. Record Yourself Rambling
I often recommend this technique to students- try talking about the essay prompt and record yourself. Your speaking voice is a more natural and creative voice. You can talk faster than you can type, and your brain to speaking connection doesn’t tend to involve your internal editor as much, either.
Afterwards, transcribe the rambling and edit to your heart’s content.

If all else fails, write through it. Sometimes the best cure for writer’s block is…writing.

Heather Tomasello