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How to overcome writer’s block

It may be easier than you think!

Matthaeus Choo


Published: 22 February 2021, 11:55 AM

Whether for school, for work, or for those silly enough to write for leisure, the dreaded writer’s block will haunt just about anyone. 

There is nothing more frustrating than to know what you want to express and being unable to find the words to materialise them. Frustration only builds up when writing is often a race against a deadline with the typing cursor blinking on with neither remorse nor answers. 

I am, by far, not an expert writer. Even now, it is ironic for me to be creatively paralysed while writing an introduction for an article about overcoming writer’s block. So for what it’s worth, here are some tips I have found useful over the years that may help you handle your next writer’s block.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE JOHNSON VIA UNSPLASH

1. Talking to yourself

I think most of us tend to express ourselves better by talking rather than writing. Sometimes, vocalising it all out before translating them into coherent sentences can work wonders. Similarly, having a conversation with ourselves might be just what is needed to push through. 

Key to all writing is the need to identify the purpose of the text. Having simple back and forths with ourselves, much like with any discussion with someone else, can make achieving this easier by narrowing our approach. This gets even more valuable when talking to ourselves is often as seen as a method of stress relief.

Of course, there are clear limits with this tip. Talking to ourselves may be fine at home, but doing the same in the office or at the cafe and a writer’s block may become the least of your worries.

2. Draft all your thoughts out

To paraphrase a quote often attributed to author Ernest Hemingway, the first draft of anything is usually crap. I think we as Singaporeans have largely been raised to recoil in horror at the prospect of failing on our first attempts at anything. 

Don’t be afraid to write in point form and splatter your thoughts as a start. If you are like me and you are terrible at planning, this method is great for sketching a structure and approach. From there, keep in mind the focus of your work, add onto the structure, and rearrange accordingly.

 

PHOTO CREDIT: HANNAH GRACE VIA UNSPLASH

3. Start somewhere else other than the beginning

As a follow-up to the previous tip, it may be best and far more productive to write out of sequence. This not only ensures that progress is certain, but it also keeps the creative juices flowing. 

Clear out of your head the points you are confident about first. One reason why writer’s block can be so devastating is exactly because of how momentum-based writing is. 

However, it’s important to have a clear plan. Without one, there is the risk of writing for the sake of a word count with nothing accomplished or said. See this approach as more of filling in the blanks rather than beginning out of sequence.

4. Do something else for a while

This is another tip that may be difficult to follow at work; not furiously typing away may be mistaken for slacking off. Despite following every other tip, there are still bound to be mental jams that cannot be overcome by spending any more time staring at the computer screen.

Close your eyes, loosen your jaw and do some breathing exercises for relaxation on mindline.sg. Keep yourself hydrated. Scroll through social media for a while — you probably earned it. Take a short walk around the house, or to the pantry if you are in the office. 

You will be surprised by the inspiration you can find sitting on a toilet bowl.

5. Keep in mind that perfection doesn’t exist

Writing can be a frustrating endeavour, especially for perfectionists. Yet, to paraphrase Salvador Dali, it may be best to have no fear of perfection because most will never reach it anyway.

Keep in mind that you are probably more equipped than you think to write the report or article. There are bound to roadblocks due to pesky grammar rules, but that’s where applications such as Grammarly can help. 

A flowery vocabulary isn’t necessary for most writing either, especially to score for school reports where the focus comes from if the main points are mentioned and substantiated. 

Unlike maths or science, just remember that perfection doesn’t exist for writing — and that’s exactly the beauty of it. 

How we express ourselves will be completely unique to anyone else. Instead of finding the perfect words, look within yourself and writing will be way easier than you think.


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