It’s that time of year again: the almost-end-of-semester time of year when students gulp copious amounts of caffeine and fight to catch up with essays and class readings. Each new assignment at this point in the semester is met with groans and eye rolls. These are the only signs that we haven’t died…yet. And at this point in the semester, I have inevitably hit my every-year writer’s block wall.
For those who do not write daily, this may be surprising. Writer’s block is a real thing. It is a cruel curse thrust upon students who least expect it, like me.
Even if the assignment has been in the works for several months, the due date creeps towards me and all I manage to do is doodle or rant about everything else I’d rather be doing.
Writer’s block seems incurably bleak. When it hit me this time, I began to type random words that bled into gibberish. Coffee won’t help you at this point, I remind myself as I open a blank document in Word. I stare at the document. Its emptiness mocks me. A counselor once asked if I put off starting assignments because I’m afraid they’ll turn into crap. I said yes, refusing to add that I’m so afraid of writing something bad that I end up writing nothing at all, which in turn, makes everything worse.
So how can one cope with writer’s block and prevent it from expanding into a hyperventilating panic attack? I’m glad you asked. I start by closing my laptop. I start by writing, on paper with pen, what the assignment is across the top of the page. I jot down pieces of ideas—anything that comes to mind. I cross out everything that sounds completely ridiculous.
I then begin a new list about why I want to write about this specific topic, besides I just want to get this assignment over with. When I have a solid idea (or something close to it), I break into a happy dance or tears. I transfer that idea on the word document. I religiously save what I’ve done. I take a deep breath. Eventually, my writer’s block steps aside and lets me pass—and pass my classes.
Writer’s block is a difficult thing for everyone who writes: students, poets, novelists, etc. I hear there is even a form of it that plagues artists (painter’s block? Photographer’s block?). All that matters is what we eventually get on the page—that we do everything we can to move beyond the block and continue, day after difficult day, to write, paint, and take photos.
Something I’ve learned from writer’s block, I can always edit. Writing is a constant process; it’s not just writing from the introduction to the conclusion, and turning it in with your eyes closed. Writing means getting your ideas down and letting go of the worry that your words will turn into a giant blob of garbage. Editing means taking that might-be-a-pile-of-garbage and turning it into something you’re proud of.
If your writer’s block is enabling you to do anything productive and you need a break, read the new Sequel online at scpublications.com!
--Shelby Minnmann, '18