Girl on laptop

—Amy, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

Hmmm…what can I say about writer’s block? Oh look, there are some funny cat videos I need to watch on YouTube.

In all seriousness, writer’s block affects everyone who has ever had to complete a writing assignment with or without a deadline. Some writers are good at jump-starting the writing process or realizing when they need to take a break. Others are good at creating a writing routine that keeps them on task and on time.

If you need some help getting over writer’s block, try these tips:

Question yourself. If you are having trouble finding the motivation to write, ask yourself a few questions to get your motor running: Why is it important that I share what I know about the topic? How can my writing about this help others improve their own lives? If you can answer those questions thoughtfully, you can feel more confident that you must write.

Be silly. If you are not sure how to start a writing assignment, begin by writing something no matter how silly it sounds. In fact, try to be silly. This will loosen up those rusty wheels in your brain and get ideas flowing. Flowing ideas will lead to other ideas that you can actually use for your assignment.

Silence your inner critic. When drafting, tell that inner critic (mine is named “Ralph” and has a big nose and thin mustache) to go away. Nothing shuts writers down faster than the inner critic who tells them that what they are writing is just plain dumb. Ralph wanted me to revise that last sentence, but I managed to ignore him. Let yourself write without judgment so you can get material down on the page. Invite your inner critic back when you are ready to edit.

Ready, set, go. Time yourself and write only for that short amount of time. Give yourself five minutes, for example, to write down everything you know about a topic. Stop when time is up and read what you have. Usually, you will have gotten some ideas worth working on and maybe even forgotten you had writer’s block.

Ditch perfection. Good writing is not perfect. As a composition professor, I wanted students to ditch the concern about pleasing me or writing something earth-shattering. “Just write something for me!” I would say. It is better to turn in an assignment than to miss a deadline because you don’t feel it is the best thing on the planet. Your teacher can’t grade what you didn’t turn in.

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Amy Baldwin, EdD, is the director of University College at the University of Central Arkansas. She is the author of The Community College Experience, The First-Generation College Experience, and The College Experience, all published by Pearson.