I used to think that writer’s block was a problem for creative types. I know better now. Whether it’s a novel, a poem, or a research paper, everyone who writes faces writer’s block eventually. And since students spend much of their time writing, you know exactly what I’m talking about: sitting at your desk, staring at the screen with your hands hovering over the keyboard, nothing happening, the screen stubbornly blank. You’re blocked.
What do you do?
The problem with much of the advice that I’ve seen on how to deal with writer’s block is the failure to recognize the different kinds of blocks you might encounter. And dealing with each requires its own tool. Imagine that you moved to Chicago last year, right before one of the nastiest winters in memory. (I’m not sure who would do such a foolish thing, but just pretend.) You go out to your car one January morning and discover copious amounts of snow between you and the street. Would you address this obstacle by going inside and getting the plunger from your bathroom? I sure hope not. And I strongly recommend not trying to fix a clogged toilet with a snow shovel. Different blocks require different tools or you’ll have a mess on your hands (and probably your shoes).
The same is true with writer’s block. If you’re stuck, you need to recognize why you’re stuck and identify the right kinds of tools for getting unstuck. Otherwise, you might just make things worse.