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Combating Writer's Block

Combating Writer's Block

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson gives suggestions on how to use the writing process to avoid writer's block.

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Welcome back to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today? Today we'll be talking about something all writers have to deal with at one point or another, writer's block. We'll talk about what writer's block is, and then we'll look at the many different ways that using the writing process we advocate in English composition can help fight and prevent writer's block.

As I said, writer's block is a phenomenon that all writers, from newbies to academic giants to professional creative writers and journalists, all writers in all fields, have to deal with at some point in their careers. Writer's block is the catch-all term we use to describe the feeling of being mentally unable to generate ideas, or in some cases to write at all. It's a common phenomenon, one that occurs most often at the initial stages of the writing process.

And while many writers have found different ways around or through their own writer's block, I recommend the different steps of the writing process. In addition to helping beginning writers generate better essays, the process itself can also help writers combat their writer's block. Let's look at how.

Each of the writing process steps can help get you through writer's block. Brainstorming is meant to help generate ideas. When you're having trouble getting started, brainstorming can help you clarify your thinking, getting you through or around whatever insecurities or stagnant ideas are holding you back. Brainstorming techniques can also help when writers feel blocked at any stage of the writing process.

Similarly, prewriting techniques like outlining can help prevent uncertainties and insecurities later on in the process during drafting. And if that doesn't work, revisit and think again about your thesis. Often, just writing it out or saying it out loud to yourself can help you clarify your goals for the writing project and help you remember or reassert your project's focus.

Also, embracing the philosophy of drafting and the underlying assumption that you'll have more than one draft means that nothing you write ever has to be perfect, or even all that good, especially on the first try. Since you're writing this draft knowing you'll come back to it later, changing whatever you find needs changing, much of the pressure is relieved, at least compared to some other poor writer who thinks he or she has to create a polished gem the first time through.

Once you have a draft or partial draft, editing and revision strategies like critical reading and a broad analysis of your text can help you generate new ideas, even later on in the writing process. And as we said, since no draft is ever the final draft, until the deadline comes at least, if you've got the time to revise, you've got the time to create. And many beginning writers will find that even later in the writing process, they have a hard time getting started when taking that second, third, or even fourth look at a draft.

Often, beginning by proofreading, looking through the text for typos and sentence-level problems will give you a way to work productively on the piece while building the mental and emotional momentum you need to do more substantive work. Overall, and in spite of the specific way the writing process can help beginning writers get through or around writer's block, the best thing to do is simply to trust the process. The writing process we've learned about and demonstrated has helped thousands upon thousands of writers improve and streamline the way they create their writing projects.

So why, as you should ask yourself any time you're having trouble, why shouldn't it help you too? Writers will not achieve perfection, or even brilliance at any single point in writing. But if they plow ahead, embracing the process aspect of writing, they will be successful in their long term goals. It's important to remain flexible when writing. Often writer's block comes to those too attached to an outline, a trajectory, or the research and ideas they've already come up with. A willingness to adjust a writing project to suit your current situation is a strength, even if it doesn't always feel that way.

What did we learn today? We learned about writer's block, and how the writing process can help writers get through or prevent entirely the freezing, stalling, and slowing that so often interferes with beginning writers' projects. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.