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.

 

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Harvard Class of 2007

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