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Overcoming Your Writer’s Block

Updated: Jun 19, 2021

by Laila Mostafa

Whether you’re an amateur writer or a professional author, no one has managed to escape the clutches of the literary pandemic known as Writer’s Block. Widely defined by the writing community as “a creative slump,” writer’s block is a condition in which writers are unable to produce new work; it could appear in a situation as small as writing a sentence or as large as creating a novel. Like a virus, writer’s block suddenly appears and manages to take control of every creative outlet in your mind, hindering your ability and slowing down your progress. Even the greatest and most notable authors of our time experienced writer’s block at some point throughout their writing careers: J.K Rowling, Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, and the list goes on. No one is safe.

Even though writer’s block is a widely common phenomenon, there are a few ways in which we can learn to overcome it. On Sunday, the 21st of March, AUS Writing Center tutors Gowri Prasad and Ines Zitouni presented a workshop on how students could overcome their writer’s block. Gowri and Ines first started by explaining the different stages of writer’s block and the common characteristics exhibited by students who experience it. They then moved on to describing the impact of writer’s block on students and listing a few exercises that they can use to help reduce or overcome their creative slump.

Stages of Writer’s Block:

  1. Denial

  2. “I am not experiencing writer’s block. I can do this!”

  3. Anger

  4. “Why am I not able to write?!”

  5. Bargaining

  6. “Perhaps I should take a break and try again in fifteen minutes.”

  7. Depression

  8. “I am going to fail. This is too difficult.”

  9. Acceptance

  10. “I have writer’s block. What should I do now?”

Characteristics Exhibited By Students With Writer’s Block:

Stage One:

  • Negative Feelings Towards Writing

  • Focusing on Form Instead of Content

  • Lack of External Motivation--No Need for Attention or Praise

Stage Two:

  • Fear of Being Compared To Other Writers

  • Lack of Internal Motivation--No Desire to Tell Your Story

  • Excessive And Harsh Self-Criticism

  • Low Self-Esteem

  • Giving Up On Writing

Impact of Writer’s Block

  1. Comprehension

  2. How well a reader can understand the text

  3. Cohesion

  4. Transitions or cues that link ideas together, ensuring that the paper flows well

How Can The Writing Center Help You?

  1. Pre-editing

  2. Asking questions

  3. Prioritizing content of the paper over grammar

  4. Offering brainstorming sessions to help students form the outline of the paper

  5. Anxiety and Stress

  6. Setting up a calm, safe, and encouraging environment

  7. Helping students dissociate themselves from the negative feelings they harbor towards writing

  8. Positive reinforcement

  9. Difficulty In Understanding

  10. Handouts created by the tutors

  11. Interactive sessions to go over the assignment/guidelines

  12. Advice through the tutor’s own experiences

Exercises To Overcome Writer’s Block

  1. Write--even if the topic is unrelated to your assignment

  2. Create a word/tag cloud to help generate ideas

  3. Accept that you are experiencing writer’s block so you can learn to overcome it

  4. Clear your mind and find your flow

Overall, not only did Gowri and Ines provide the eager students with valuable information on how to overcome their writer’s block, but they also created a positive and supportive writing environment by asking the students to actively participate and voice their creative concerns to the audience. Through the workshop, Gowri and Ines also allowed the students to break free from their mental constraints and visualize a brighter, block-free future through interactive features such as freewriting activities, games, and mind maps to help the students implement and physically practice what they learned.

As a viewer, I believe that this workshop was a great success because it explained the concept of writer’s block in such a simple manner. Whether in the colorful slides, simple yet detailed information, or the interactive activities, there was a great learning tool for every student in the workshop; this was especially noted by the engaging, stress-free environment created by Ines and Gowri and exhibited by the participants’ positive responses during and after the workshop.

“The mind is just like a muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand.”

--Idowu Koyenikan

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