Academic Writing: How to Deal With Writer's Block

Several situations can combine to cause a block as you engage in academic writing. This block is what is usually referred to as writers' block. The number one culprit is anxiety. As a student the best thing to do is probably talk to your tutor. Let's look at a few case scenarios and see if we can find solutions for them.

a. Attempting to start your academic writing without any previous preparation.

A student will naturally get stuck doing this. It is counterproductive. To quickly get out of this situation, use invention strategies. Write down your primary ideas in bits and pieces; this will give you a clearer picture of what you want to write. Develop these bits and pieces and you have your outline. Having an outline makes it easy for you to plough along. Remember that a good academic writing does not materialise overnight.

b. You have a topic that you consider to be boring.

A boring topic can effectively kill the creative spirit in you. To get past this, find an aspect of the topic that is of interest to you. Tackle your essay from this stand point. You may be pleasantly surprised to find you actually enjoy the topic. Another alternative would be to talk to your tutor assuming you have one. Discuss with your tutor how you can personalise your topic and make it speak to you.

c. You simply are not in the mood to do any academic writing (Maybe because you don't fully understand the assignment).

When the scenario above happens, it is important to first realise you must write whether you like it or not. That said, enquire from your teacher or tutor (in some cases fellow students) exactly what is expected of you. Look through your text books to gain a better understanding of your topic.

d. Let's assume you are in the exam hall and when it's time to start your academic writing, you freeze. Your brain finds it difficult to communicate with your hands to write..

Before going into any form of academic writing, you need to stop this from happening. Consciously stop the negative thoughts in your head and replace those negative thoughts with positive comments about yourself. Be productive and tell yourself you can do it. It may be useful to develop a ritual to help you get past this freeze phase. You may need to chew a gum or hum a song. The focus is to motivate you to write. At this point, come back to the task at hand and rehearse it. You will be surprised at how easily you will begin to write afterwards.

Joy Tochi is a professional writer and an academician. She has several articles to her credit that can be seen at


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