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Conquering Writer’s Block One Word at a Time


As I sit at this table in front of my computer…
As I sit here in front of this screen…
As I stare blankly at the daunting white page…

Writing can be hard—and getting started can be even harder. Many writers, even experienced ones, have difficulty facing the blank page, the dreaded empty word document. It can be a terrifying experience. What if my sentences are weird? What if I don’t get across what I’m trying to say? Wait, do I remember how to use commas correctly? A writer must remember a seemingly endless number of things all at once.

For many students, this fear that their writing won’t be perfect right away manifests as writer’s block and prevents them from getting started. One of the best strategies I’ve found for dealing with this is called ‘Barf then Buff.’ It’s a rather disgusting metaphor, but it gets the point across. In other words, just write: anything and everything that comes to mind. Once you have ‘barfed’ up all the words—in whatever messy order they come out in—then go back with your keen eye for comma splices and subject-verb agreement to ‘buff’ the essay until it’s as close to perfect as possible. By allowing yourself the space to write poorly at first, you might find words come more easily. After all, you can’t write anything good if you don’t write anything at all.

A few other quick tips:

1. The problem might be simply that you haven’t done enough brainstorming. Take a few minutes to jot down some ideas. Give yourself some time to create an outline and really know what you want to say.

2. Get outside and move your body! Maybe you’re having trouble writing your essay because you’ve just spent eight hours at school in a chair. Take a short but refreshing break to make sure you’re physically ready to write before sitting back down.

3. Talk to someone about your ideas. Sometimes putting your thoughts into spoken words first can help jump start your writing flow. If you’re still feeling stuck, you can always come talk to one of our writing coaches for some personalized help. Additionally, sometimes conquering writer’s block can simply be a matter of setting aside dedicated writing time—exactly what our three-hour writing workshops offer.

Happy writing!

(Note: this is not the first draft of this blog post. The first draft was…yikes.)

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