Banish Writer’s Block

How To Tame Your Inner Critic

Blank pages are the enemy of not only most college and graduate applicants, but even of professional writers. Here are a few tips on how to overcome writer’s block.

The Quick Write (also known as Speed Writing)
Tear off five pieces of paper and write a random word or phrase on each one. Fold it over and throw it into a pile. Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes, pick one piece of paper and write without stopping about the words on the paper. If you run out of something to say, just write the word again and start fresh. When the timer rings, read aloud (much more fun to do this with others), pick a new piece of paper and set your timer again. Save them in a file titled “Warm-Ups.”

Change of Scene
Make it a habit to grab a small notebook that fits in a pocket or purse, get out of your house for 15-30 minutes and go hang out at a favorite place like a coffee shop, book store, park, or anywhere you choose. Jot down everything you observe, overhear, smell or that jogs a memory.

How to Overcome Writer’s Block with Free Association
Take a break every day to write down random thoughts about anything that runs through your mind in a spiral notebook. Some ideas include:

  • Something you hate
  • A mistake you still regret
  • Last night’s dinner
  • Why you prefer morning or evening
  • What you are thinking about while waiting at a red light
  • A description of a person you know well
  • Your favorite item of clothing.

Write about anything, anywhere. It doesn’t matter.

Voice Recorder
“My fingers refuse to write down my thoughts.” Use the “Voice Recorder” tool on your cell phone, or borrow a tape recorder, and ramble about anything for 10-15 minutes. Examples include:

  • Your happiest or saddest memory;
  • Something that you love to do
  • Something you can’t throw out
  • An incident that changed your beliefs
  • A mistake you made that you’ll never forget.

Now type out every word on your recorder and save it. Later, you will find a couple of gems worthy of expansion.

After you learn how to overcome writer’s block, check out the next steps for how to write the killer essay.


What Students Say About Susan 

"Susan was a lifesaver during my college essay writing process! From brainstorming creative topics to editing the final draft, Susan was by far the most helpful aide I had. The college application process can be so overwhelming, especially with the numerous essays required at each school, and to have someone to coach you, and yes, at times hold your hand, saved my sanity and my applications. Susan is the most supportive, creative and compassionate woman that I have had the pleasure of working with and I have no doubt in my mind that when grad school applications roll around she will be the first one I call. Thank you Susan for everything you have done! You’re amazing!"

Pitzer Class of 2010

"Susan not only helped me to write the best personal essays I could, but also taught me how to express myself in clear, concise and persuasive prose. What I learned from her helped me get into college and allowed me to flourish there. In fact, Susan's emphasis on brainstorming, free-writing, rewriting, and self-editing have become the cornerstones of my own writing process, which has served me well professionally and personally. Susan is a teacher and mentor of unparalleled wisdom and skill. She is my personal guru, and I sing her praises to the heavens daily. I cannot recommend her highly enough. If you ever have the chance to work with Susan, grab it!"

Yale Class of 2002

"Susan Wolf helped me throughout--from conception to execution. She was a guide and mentor, helping me refine my ideas and craft a series of application essays. Working with Susan was instrumental for me, and the single reason I believe I got accepted. She helped me keenly identify the things that could help distinguish me from the hundreds of other applicants. She worked with me to make sure that my essays were more lucid but still retained my voice. As a writer now for the Wall Street Journal, that was very important to me. I've worked with a lot of editors in my job and can honestly say that she is exceptional. I feel very lucky that I got a chance to work with her on my college application process.

Princeton Class of 2004

"As a writer, its my job to tell stories. One of the hardest stories to tell is your own story. Susan Wolf helped me tell my story. If it wasn’t for her knowledge and dedication, I don’t think I would have been admitted to the college of my choice. It is rare in life that we meet someone who truly cares for our well being. Anyone who has the opportunity to work with Susan will get 100% of their money’s worth."

Emerson Class of 2014

"Susan listened to the personality beneath the words of my first draft and pushed me to create a unique college application. She has the experience to guide you and the energy to spark your writing."

Duke Class of 2013

"Susan is a breath of fresh air in the college application process and gives you the tough love you need. She's direct, insightful, and knows exactly what to tell you to move your application to the next level - whether it's thinking through schools, assessing your application as a whole, or wordsmithing your personal statement. Most importantly she performs her job within a context of caring and fun so that working on your app becomes a fun challenge rather than a source of dread. She was critical for my results and the process couldn't have been better!"

Harvard Class of 2007

Contact Susan