Writer’s Block: How to Overcome the Fear of the Blank Page

I regularly fall prey to writer’s block. Faced with a blank page, my mind empties, my sense of purpose evaporates and I begin to panic. I become overwhelmed by negative thoughts: I’ll never be able to write again….I’m in over my head with this….and so on! This has overshadowed my postgraduate research and writing since the beginning, so I have found several ways to combat this ailment. Some may seem obvious, but hopefully you will also find them useful:

Write Something else…ANYTHING ELSE

When staring at the blank word document, feeling like that white space is going to flow out of the screen and engulf you, just write about anything other than what you had originally intended. Feeling the tap of your hands on the keyboard, watching the word count accumulate and seeing the dreaded blank page fill with your writing will help you to relax. When you return to your original topic you may be more able to proceed.

Start a Blog

Having a blog that you update regularly will help you to develop a regular writing schedule. Watching your posts build up will give you confidence in your ability to writing. Since I set up this academic blog, I have noticed an increase in my output of word count and I am more confident in my PhD writing. This blog has also given me a space to put my first suggestion into practice….in fact I am writing this post to combat yet another bout of writer’s block!

Treat Yourself

Chocolate, coffee/tea, a new book etc. Treat yourself to something nice because you deserve it! think about a chapter or an essay that you wrote really well and congratulate yourself with a little gift. Feeling good about your writing is the most important step in overcoming writer’s block.

Talk It Out

Meet with your supervisor or a trusted friend and talk it out. Perhaps it’s the concept or theory behind your latest piece of writing that’s causing the problem. Maybe you don’t feel like you truly understand the topic yet. Could your structure and planning need a bit of fine tuning. Discussing it with someone and voicing your concerns out loud can really help make the fear of the blank page dissipate and send you make to your computer with renewed confidence in your work.

Talk to Yourself

Yes, this may sound strange. But if there isn’t anyone immediately available to talk it out with, just talk to yourself! It really can help! State the problem out loud (not too loud or people might talk!) and work it out with yourself. Hearing your voice and focusing on working out the problem can move things along

Use Visuwords

Visuwords is an online graphic dictionary and thesaurus. Just type in a word that relates to your topic and watch as the website produces an interactive diagram of words and phrases that you can click on, expand further and make new connections. Seeing all the words and phrases that your chosen words link with will aid in coming up with sentences, expanding the vocabulary in your work and visualising what you want discuss/argue.

Make Diagrams and Plans

Good planning is essential when embarking on a new phase of your writing, whether it’s for your thesis, an assignment or a personal project. Make a plan and hang it up over your desk. Using spider diagrams, mind maps and multi-coloured post-it notes to chart your aims and ideas. Having something to look at and check in with will increase your focus and give you something to consult and add to when you feel blocked.

Set a Daily Word Count

This is an obvious one, but having goals and structuring your time around them is really important and will help you focus. Choose a reasonable word count and aim for that every day. Don’t chastise yourself if you can’t hit the target every time and feel free to go over it!


As Stephen King says, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

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This entry was posted by americasstudies on Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 at 10:32 am and is filed under Blogging, Education . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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