Writing is a process, not a singular event. It is rarely an automatic occurrence and requires diligence, creativity, and practice. If you feel lost in the process of research, take a look at our strategies for critical reading and note taking. If you are stuck, here are tips for helping you put words onto the page.
Before you begin writing, take 20 min to construct a thesis statement with some of our prewriting strategies. Taking the time to prepare will give you direction and focus. A blank page does not mean that you are searching for the right word or words to begin your essay; it often means that you have no plan. As a scholarly writer, you should show up to your paper or computer full of information you have found in your research. Your goal is to compile a wide and deep knowledge base from which your own ideas will flow.
Find a timer or stopwatch, and set it for 1 min. Then, like a sprinter, type or hand-write nonstop until the time is up. Even if you type the letter A over and over again, you are still typing something! You are still defeating the blank page. Next, set the timer for 2 min, then 5 min, and repeat the process, with 1-min breaks in between. Soon enough, you will be surprised by what you see on the page!
Sometimes the blank pages in front of you can be incredibly intimidating—especially if you know that you are required to fill 25 of them. Rather than tackling the entire paper in one sitting, set goals for yourself. Setting goals will help you to work at a reasonable pace and form the paper in increments and pieces. Set time goals, such as these:
Hold yourself accountable to your goals.
Giving yourself a break (whether for 10 min, an hour, a day or two) will help clear your mind and make your words appear fresh on the page. Some ideas need time to develop without conscious thought—not all time spent away from the computer is unproductive time!
Bounce ideas off classmates, friends, or family members. Ask general questions to people who are familiar with your topic. What seems important to them? What background, terms, or other ideas will they need to know in order to understand your message? Do they disagree with your argument or the points you make? If so, why?
Summarize your own work. In the margins of your paper (or using comment bubbles), write a one-sentence summary of the purpose of each paragraph. Review your summaries to get a clearer idea of your direction, the overall flow of the paper, and how far you still need to go.
Take another look. Ask yourself a few questions:
When in doubt, read more on your topic—it is never a bad idea to go back to your sources and expand your knowledge when you are trying to work your way out of writer’s block.