Can I break through writer’s block?

by | April 29, 2012

Podcast Description: Discover some techniques on how to get through the times when writing become challenging.

Transcript: The following presentation is a production of Capella University and is not intended for commercial use.

Welcome to another topic in a series of podcasts regarding aspects of the comprehensive exam and dissertation process. A time may come when you’re working on a paper, comprehensive exam, or dissertation and then—suddenly—you stall out.

You cannot think of anything to write. Your mind is numb. Ideas elude you and you feel like you’ve lost focus and direction. Worse yet, you feel like you won’t be able to make any progress. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, is exhausting or non-productive.

If you are experiencing any of these feelings, welcome to the creative process! This condition has a bona fide name. It’s called “writer’s block.” Know that you’re in good company because thousands of accomplished writers have experienced this exact thing.

But, what do you do? Is writer’s block permanent?

Fortunately, there’s good news. This podcast shares success strategies that a Capella Ph.D. graduate used to help mitigate writer’s block when she was writing her comprehensive exam and dissertation. Here are six recommendations:

First, if you haven’t done it already, identify the time of day that you’re most productive. Ask yourself, are you more creative and alert in the morning, afternoon, evening, or late evening? Then, schedule times to write when you know your body’s natural energy resources are at their strongest.

Second, take care of yourself…if that means watching TV for a few hours, that is just fine! It’s healthy and entirely “normal” to balance life activities. Don’t worry. If you don’t take time for breaks and allow your brain to relax, you won’t be as efficient or as productive as you want to be. Remember that you’re a whole person who needs to have down time and fun.

Third, find things you can do that elicit reflection and thinking, such as meditating, taking a shower, doing yoga, or taking a walk. Ideas CAN come out of nowhere when you provide mental space for them to appear. Catch ideas when they come. To generate ideas and to facilitate thinking, you may want to talk into a tape recorder. Play the tape back and write down what you can use. Stream of consciousness talking and free-writing may help you to break through writer’s block.

Fourth, remember there’s value in the saying, “Let me sleep on it.” Register mental notes on what you have to do or what you’re thinking about, and intentionally ask your subconscious to take it from there.

Remember the value of a support system. You can alleviate a lot of stress and mitigate writer’s block by talking to people and sharing your anxiety. When people are encouraging, you will feel better and able to step back into the writing process.

No matter what stage of the doctoral journey you’re in, think about setting up a writing schedule. Create a calendar and block out times specifically dedicated to writing. And stick to it.

If you want to write for four hours, break up each hour into 30-minute segments. Short periods of writing may be more productive. Emotionally you will feel better if you avoid sitting for long stretches at a time with minimal results.

Use a timer for the amount of time you want to write. Set it up in a close-by room so that it doesn’t distract you.

It’s important to start on time—write—and then end on time.

Stop when the timer goes off. Get up and walk around. Take a five-minute break. Perhaps grab something to eat or drink. Remember how important it is to keep your brain hydrated. Drink plenty of water. And remember, too, exercise helps alleviate stress and gets your blood flowing. Don’t feel like you have to write every day.

Experiment with these recommendations and use what works for you.

Remember, you bring unique circumstances to your doctoral journey. Follow up with your doctoral advisor for clarification and additional information about the dissertation process.

This presentation has been brought to you by Capella University and may not be re-transmitted or used for any commercial purpose without the expressed written consent of Capella University.

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