Graduate College

Are you experiencing the dreaded "writer’s block"? Here are five tips to get you writing again.

1. Write for 15 minutes a day.

It sounds simple, but it’s part of Joan Bolker’s advice in her book "Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day." On difficult writing days, you might only write for 15 minutes. However, on a productive day, 15 minutes can turn into a couple of hours or multiple pages. 

2. Consider starting a writing group with fellow students.

Your group can meet in real time either in person or through a service like Skype or Google Hangouts. Each time you meet (e.g., weekly, biweekly, or monthly), a different person has the opportunity to receive feedback from group members about ways to revise, edit, or continue drafting.

3. Freewriting can be helpful when you have a lot on your mind.

Pick a question to write about, for example “What are my next steps in revising this paper?,” “How would I summarize my argument to a colleague?,” or “What is the connection or disconnection between the sources I have been reading?” Set a timer for 3 minutes and write without stopping. After 3 minutes, review what you wrote and find a focal point to move you forward in writing.  

4. Record yourself talking.

Sometimes the act of typing or putting pen to paper can make writers feel more blocked. You can use an audio recorder or your smartphone. After you complete your recording, play it back and transcribe what you hear. You can also use your phone’s “talk-to-text” feature to “speak” your text message. Then, you can copy and paste that text into an email and send it to yourself. 

5. Make an appointment with a graduate writing consultant.

Make an appointment with an in-person or online graduate writing consultant in one of ASU’s Graduate Writing Centers by going to https://tutoring.asu.edu/graduate. During your appointment, you can brainstorm ideas for a project, work on an outline, decide on writing goals and due dates, or discuss a portion of your writing in terms of strengths and areas for potential revision.

No matter which strategies you try, remember that you can overcome writer’s block. As author Peter Mayle says: “Best advice on writing I’ve ever received: finish.”