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February 2, 2010

Tackling Writer's Block

This Extra Ink was written by Betsy C.

Writers block: we all get it, and it always seems to strike at the worst possible time. (The night before your final paper is due, for instance) Im willing to bet that even historys greatest poets and novelists encountered a blank page they just couldnt fill once in a while. Writers block is a horrible feeling, and it tends to build on itself: soon enough, you manage to convince yourself that youll never be able to get that writing done.

Weve mentioned writers block a few times before here at Extra Ink: theres the Just Finish What You Start For Goodness Sake method, and one of my personal favorites, the Write or Die method. However, both of those articles are primarily about procrastination, of which writers block is only one variant.

Today, Ive got two solutions for writers block that Im going to share with you. Theyre pretty much the only things that work for me every timeif I actually make myself do them, that is.

First, I cannot stress enough the importance of simply allowing yourself a draft. When I write, I often get mired down in the need to self-edit every sentence as I go. When I first started writing papers and stories, that meant I rarely had a first draft or final draftwriting two versions of the same thing seemed like way more work than writing something once. However, I ended up writing that one draft so slo-o-owly that it took me far longer than writing three drafts of a paper does now. The reason for this is that a first draft often turns out better than you think it is when youre writing it. So type with abandon, type like the wind, and dont let questions of grammar or phrasing or vocabulary hold you back. You can vanquish writers block by writing everything that comes into your head, even if you think its beyond awful at the time. You can always fix it laterthough youll find that, more often than you think, you wont have to do so.

Second, consider the value of stepping away from that blank screen for a while. Writing is all about taking your experience and knowledge and putting it on paperso if youve been writing a lot, you may find that youve just drained your reserves. Put some new knowledge and experience in your brain by reading a book, talking to a friend, or just going for a walk and letting fate decide what youll experience. Sometimes all you need is some input from your life so that you can output in your work.

These suggestions might sound ridiculously simple, but Ive found they kill writers block better than just about anything else. If youre really stuck, I have an idea for that too: read other teens writing on TeenInk.com! You may well find that one of your peers will inspire you most of all.

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