Ah, the dreaded writer’s block. It happens to all of us at some point. Whether you’re working on a book, a paper, your dissertation, or a work project, sometimes you just get stuck. This is normal. Every student and writer has, at some point, faced writer’s block. The good news is that it’s not forever. There are ways to ease this creative constipation, and get you on your way.

Why does writer’s block happen? It can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we get in our own way, with perfectionism or anxiety. Sometimes we just need to step away from the computer for a bit and do something else while our brain recharges. Sometimes writer’s block is the unconscious telling us this isn’t the right topic for us right now. And sometimes, it’s just plain old fear. It can vary for everyone. The main thing is not to let it stop you completely.

Here are some tips to help break through writer’s block. You might need to try more than one; sometimes one works better than another.

Step away from the desk. Sometimes we just need to get out of our own way and get up from the chair for a bit and walk away. Literally. Go for a walk. Go meet a friend for coffee or call a friend on the phone and DON’T talk about your work. Go play some basketball. Go play with your kids. Go to a movie. Just give your brain a break from the work.

Switch gears. If you have several projects going on, take a break from dissertation work to do some of the other project. Your brain will still be engaged, and actively working on something else might help shake something loose for the dissertation work.

Give yourself permission to do bad work. Notice I didn’t say give yourself permission to turn in bad work. Sometimes writer’s block is a result of anxiety or fear – fear of not writing well, fear of writing the wrong thing, or anxiety about The Dissertation. Throw all of that away! Who cares if you write complete garbage the first time? Just get it out onto the paper. That’s what revising is for. The next day, read it over and retool it. When you have a workable draft, that’s when you send it to a trusted editor (like Thesis Editor) to help you polish it before you turn it in to your professor. But don’t be afraid of those early steps and those first few drafts. On the page is better than nothing at all.

Get inspired. Take a break and read some of your favorite writing. Anything by a favorite author, a few chapters of your favorite book, a how-to dissertation guide – anything that will get you fired up about your writing or work. Check out some of these motivational quotes, too.

Face the block. Sit down and jot down some notes or free-write about what could be causing your writer’s block. Sometimes the only way out is through. Don’t expect to always be “inspired” to write. As Anne Lamott wrote in her seminal book on writing, Bird by Bird, the best thing you can do is the “butt in chair” technique. Put your butt in the chair, every darn day. Don’t wait to be inspired or for the muse to find you – just write.

Focus. If you’re at home, go somewhere else free of distraction. If you’re at a coffee shop trying to work and it’s noisy, pack up and head to the library. Sometimes just getting rid of extraneous noise and distractions can help give us the focus we need to push forward. If you keep checking Facebook, turn off your WiFi and put away your phone.

If you don’t know where to start, Thesis Editor can provide coaching and consultations. If you’re at the stage where you have an early draft but need some developmental editing and constructive feedback, let us help! Contact us today to learn more about our coaching, consultation, and editing services. We can help you take your work to the next level.
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I was at the end of my PhD in History when I came to thesis editor. I had a very specific problem in relation to the formatting of footnotes in a thesis that contained multiple landscape pages and thus multiple section breaks. The editor who worked on my thesis demonstrated an exceptional level of expertise in formatting, resolving my problem and explaining to me exactly what was done. My thesis was returned to me in good time, and I now have the PhD. I am very grateful to thesis editor for having helped me in the crucial final stages of the PhD, and would thus highly recommend their services to prospective clients.

- Kimberley P. , PhD

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