Blocking Out Writer's Block

Alice Bolandhemat As the end of the semester approaches, writing assignments start to pile on. Whether it’s a personal essay for English, an analytical piece for history, or a lab report for a science class, many of us have been in a place where ideas don’t come to our head, and once they do, it seems nearly impossible to formulate them into words. In fact, as I sit and write articles for the Forum  like this very one you’re reading, I often struggle to come up with the first word, sentence, paragraph, or idea. This struggle is commonly referred to as writer’s block. The Oxford English Dictionary defines writer’s block as “the condition of being unable to think of what to write or how to proceed with writing,” while others find it to be a result of shear frustration or disappoint in oneself. Mr. Gupta, an Upper School English teacher, would define writer’s block in a school setting, as “not being able to create and produce quality writing for any class writing assignment”. How exactly do you get rid of writer’s block? The “wikiHow” answer would be to go for a walk or do any activity that clears your head of all the thoughts that haven’t lead your writing anywhere. This strategy may sound cliché, but if you’re the type of person that gets overwhelmed by having too many unpropitious ideas, it may be just the remedy for you. However, if you can’t seem to shake writer’s block, perhaps an English teacher’s insight could be useful. Mr. Gupta believes that you must first ask yourself questions about the assignment in order to determine where you should go from there. “It’s crucial to always go back to what the assignment is asking for. What is the purpose/goal? Also, who is the audience? What type of writing is it? Is it more formal, creative, personal, reflective? ” said Gupta. After identifying what the prompt is asking of you, brainstorming is what many turn to next. “I always tell my students never stare at a blank page. Always have something to refer to, whether it be an outline, some detailed bullet points, or ideas that are popping into your head.” He suggested that students should “always have a vision of where the paper is leading to! A good thesis and proper evidence compiled before the writing even begins will make the process so much easier.” Students occasionally ask teachers to make an assignment less open-ended to help direct them. While this is helpful, too narrow of a prompt could very easily limit the intended creativity in the assignment. When asked about this, Mr. Gupta posed his opinion saying “for some assignments, giving prompts and thesis ideas can be beneficial for students. This can spark ideas and give the students a path for their writing. However, eventually, students should be able to develop their own ideas, theses, and arguments. That doesn’t mean a student can’t talk out loud their ideas with a peer or teacher. In fact, I encourage that!” However frustrating it may be, it is important to remember that frequently getting writer’s block doesn’t say anything about you as a writer or as a student. Mr. Gupta pointed out that “students are asked to do so many different types of writing that it can be hard to switch gears and write about various topics. That said…it’s important for students and writers to find what works for them throughout the writing process…What works for each student can differ and that’s okay!” So the next time you’re struggling to think of your thesis statement, or any ideas at all for that matter, remember to take a step back, reexamine the assignment, and begin with the basics.]]>