“I’m stuck!”: How to get around writer’s block

Think back to the biggest, most important project or assignment that you’ve ever worked on. You’re sitting down at your desk, your laptop in front of you. You take a deep breath, put your hands on the keyboard, and start to write. But as soon as you get those first first four letters out, you pause, then –

backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace.

It just wasn’t good enough. You take a deep breath, and you start again. You get out words one, two, three, four and five and then

backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace, backspace.

It just wasn’t good enough…again. You start wondering if you’re ever going to get this done. You watch the clock, precious seconds go by as you rack your brain, trying to find the words you want to say. You start wondering- ‘will I get this done?

Does this sound familiar?

 

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Every good writer struggles with this.

Whether it’s because you aren’t sure about what you’re writing about, don’t feel confident in that moment, or are tired and frustrated and would rather be doing anything else.

Not feeling confident is a struggle I’ve faced many times, and one that I’ve seen other students face many times through my work as a writing tutor. Lacking confidence in writing is one of the biggest roadblocks to producing excellent writing. Luckily, it is a roadblock that can be worked around with a little bit of patience, self-love, and creativity.

The first step to confident writing is identifying why you do not feel confident. After reflecting on my own experiences and asking friends and co-workers what has hindered them in the past, I’ve come up with a few common reasons why confidence can be hindered, and how to move past these roadblocks.

When you feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about

When you feel like you don’t know what you’re talking about is actually knowing what you’re talking about. But how exactly do you get there? Do you run several google searches? Or, do you ask a friend for the answer? And what happens when neither of these strategies work?

Before you start rapidly typing keywords into the internet, take 5 minutes to figure out what questions you are trying to answer. If it helps, grab a friend, and have them ask you about what you know about the topic, or if there isn’t anyone around to help you, brainstorm what questions you need answered. Taking this first step to narrow down what you need to be looking for often makes it easier to get results faster.

Not feeling sure about your capabilities

This is something I’ve often been hindered by when I’m writing up personal statements, job application materials, and important papers: you really need to show what you know, but you aren’t confident in your own abilities?

This is one of the hardest roadblocks to move around, because you can’t just snap your fingers and suddenly become sure of yourself.

After I started my first job(s), I slowly learned that no one is sure of all of their capabilities (even the ones they have to use every day at work!). I remember when I first started coding data at my lab, though I had gone through many, many hours of training, I was still unsure about how well I was doing when I first sat down to actually code. I learned that, though it is important to take my time and do every job as well and as thoroughly as I could, I just had to get more comfortable with feeling unsure. And, when I felt unsure, I had to be comfortable with asking for help. It took a lot of time for me to learn not to put pressure on myself to be absolutely perfect, and to be okay with being a work-in-progress.

Once I was able to figure that part out, I learned how to talk about myself that way, too. It became less about saying “I’m good at X” and “I’m bad at Y”, and more about “I’m good at X”, BUT “I’m improving on X and Y”. The goal is always to keep getting better. I learned that if you practice thinking about things positively and you as constantly moving forward, you feel a lot better about your capabilities.

Frustration

We are all in a constant state of multi-tasking, and everyone hits a point when they are too tired or frustrated to function. If you’re too tired or too upset from your previous activity, be sure to take a break before you start working again! And if you don’t have time for that, take 2 minutes to write about what you’re frustrated about, vent to a friend, or whatever is most relieving to you.

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Conclusion

Every writer can be hindered by each one of these road-blocks, and other ones that I may not have included on this post! But with a little bit of patience and self-assurance, every writer is capable of moving past these road-blocks and can be on their way to becoming more confident and creative writers!

See any that I missed? Let me know in the comments! 

Up next…

This is only part one of this series! Next, I hope to go more into depth about why confidence matters to writing of any kind. 

Acknowledgements:

This post would not have been possible without the support of my friends and co-workers, who gave me insight into the ways that writers sometimes struggle with confidence. One thing that I’ve learned after working as a tutor for three years is that sharing your writing of any kind is difficult, whether this is a class assignment, a research paper, or even a blog post that you share with the whole world. So, as I write this, I’d like to acknowledge those who have opened up and shared their writing with me and helped me write this post to share with all of you. I would especially like to thank my friend and colleague, Aleenah Ansari, for providing me feedback to write the most helpful piece possible.

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