Getting Started

Adapted from Bowling Green University Writers Lab handout entitled, "Stumped? How to Branch Out and Continue with the Writing Process".

Writer's block affects everyone from time to time, even the most seasoned academic and professional writers. However, there are ways to keep from being 'shut down' by this frustrating nuisance (which often likes to strike at critical moments in the writing or time management process...!) Beating writer's block can be tricky, but the key is to become actively involved with your draft by free writing, outlining, looking for areas for expansion/futher detail, thinking about your topic, etc. The following guidelines offer suggestions on how to do these (and other things).

1. Ignore the editor/censor in your head

  • Keep writing...even if you think what you're writing is horrible (at least you'll have something down on paper to either revise or work from).
  • Don't try to edit, proofread, censor, or perfect things as you write (at this point you want to concentrate only on getting ideas down on can edit the text later).
  • Start anywhere you don't have to begin with the introduction (and some writers even save the introduction for last, after they've written the rest of the paper, so they can formulate an appropriate one).
  • Stay focused on your topic (if you're having trouble concentrating, try taking a break before continuing writing).

2. Return to the pre-writing stage

  • Writing is an on-going process, so what might feel like rewriting is actually part of the natural evolution of writing a good paper.
  • Do some free writing, mapping, webbing, clustering: these strategies will work for individual sections of your essay as well as the whole thing.
  • Construct an outline (if you're comfortable with a more demanding, rigid approach), or highlight important passages to help you better organize and develop ideas.
  • Think about your topic. This is not a waste of time; you can't write about an idea you haven't first thought about (and keep in mind that the writing process is actually 90% thought and only 10% actual writing).

3. Build on your own ideas, a sentence at a time, using transitional words and phrases (see transition handout for categories and examples). Transitions are useful and necessary because they are used to continue thoughts, begin new sentences, and connect ideas.

4. Go through your essay carefully, and look for opportunities to do the following: add details, provide examples (or more examples), describe something, and/or explain something. This will give your paper added life and will also help your readers better understand what you're writing about.