You get up, go to the computer, and then it’s two hours later and you have a blank page with a blinking cursor. What happened?
Writer’s block afflicts the best of us, but it need not paralyse your progress. If you are having difficulty starting, try one (or all!) of these tips and watch the words start flowing:
1. Meditate for five minutes
As soon as you acknowledge that it is time to write and you are indeed not writing, set a timer for five minutes and meditate. Close your eyes and focus on controlling your breathing. Pay attention to the thoughts that come into your mind and try to float through them. Think of this as a juice cleanse for your brain.
2. Cut off the Internet
Unplug. By which we mean quite literally turn off your wifi. Then don’t turn it back on until you have at least 500 words. You may think you need the Internet for research, but try this exercise and you’ll find that you don’t need to be hooked to the web as much as you thought.
3. Call a friend
Tell her you are having trouble writing, but promise to spend the next 60 minutes writing. Ask her to call you back in 60 minutes to tell her how many words you have written. It is amazing what accountability can do.
4. Do some exercise
Get physical—do 50 jumping jacks or 10 pushups. Walk around the neighbourhood. Or blast your stereo and do a spontaneous dance. Research has shown that getting your circulation flowing helps jumpstart your neural connections.
5. Go old school
Turn off the computer. Pull out a pad of paper and a pen and get writing. Draw figures to conceptualise your project. Write about why you don’t feel like writing. Write and think through a theoretical puzzle. Write up your methods section. Whatever you do, spend at least 20 minutes with a pen and paper and watch how your writing is reinvigorated.
6. Have a healthy snack
Go to the kitchen. Grab an apple. Do something fancy to it, like peeling and cutting it into pieces. Or, take a mango and cut it restaurant-style. Do something methodical and creative with a healthy snack and then eat it. You will be amazed at how that little bit of left-brain activity can fuel your writing. Plus you get a sweet reward!
7. Change your location
Switch places. If you are at home working on your laptop, move into a different room, or better yet, get out of the house. If you’re at university, try studying outside of your office, perhaps in a cafe or a bigger room in the library where there are also other people studying.
Still stuck? We’re always here to help at Your PhD Supervisor – whether it’s to point you to more resources, advise you on which direction to take, or just give you a loving kick in the butt to keep your writing on track.
Photo: Benjamin Watson