Regardless of age, when writer’s block hits, it can be compositionally paralyzing. Staring at a blank page with no ideas can make a writer want to toss in the flag. Add to the mix the possibility that writing isn’t said person’s sole passion, and it’s a recipe for frustration that can lead to a complete shutdown.
Any teacher who’s ever assigned an essay or writing task has likely seen some of these frustrations play out in the classroom and/or heard about their occurrences at home. As with any possible stumbling block, preparing students with the tools to manage and work through it can prove to be invaluable and take them well beyond the writing challenges of classroom essays and standardized testing responses. These 10 writing tricks are great additions to students’ toolkits that should be modeled, shared, and utilized whenever the blind stares of writer’s block arise.
- Idea Journals– Keep the writing process proactive by having students keep idea journals. These could be paper/pencil journals or digital logs of any and all writing ideas. Students can jot down phrases, topics, even whole stories or outlines if the ideas pop. This becomes something to easily flip through to find a spark when the current page is blank.
- Soundtracks– Music can be great inspiration. It can also unleash some of the creative juices that are needed to get writing ideas flowing. Pop in some ear buds during class or turn up the volume at home to refresh a blocked brain. Sometimes that soundtrack may need to simply be tuned to some white noise to block out other distractions and allow for more focus.
- Brainstorm Webs– Have students take the topic and make a web jotting down anything and everything that possibly comes to mind. This is where tangents are their BFF. Sometimes the furthest stretch on the web becomes the perfect writing starter. Webs are excellent prewriting strategies, but there are lots of other graphic organizers out there that can benefit a writing roadblock.
- Mentor Texts– Depending on the assignment, have students turn to some writing experts in the form of published authors. As a group or individually, work to identify key components of an author’s style and have students replicate them in their own creations. Pull the repetition, figurative language, and sentence structure from Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, and have students dabble with their own renditions to create an original tale.
- Images– If the words are hard in coming, turn to images as the muse. Flipping through a photography magazine, clicking the search engine’s image button when exploring a topic, or visiting an art museum’s website can give the mind a refresh and the possibility of zeroing in on a picture that speaks a thousand words to battle the block.
- Quotes– The words of others can often generate new ideas and offer unique perspectives. Quotes can be great inspiration, and the right quote can often become the perfect hook for capturing a reading audience. A quote app, website, or book can be a great writing resource for students with or without writer’s block.
- Fidget– Refreshing the body can do wonders for the mind. Have students pull out a fidget spinner (Yep, they can be used for good.), doodle, move to a more actionable seating option (i.e., standing desk, rocking chair, bouncy ball), and let the mind-body recharge do wonders.
- Apps– Yes, this is another situation where There’s an app for that! Students are already connected to their devices, so let some writing apps come to the rescue. Our 4 Writing Apps to Help Students Conquer the Blank Page is a great place to start.
- Relocate– If the classroom offers the ability for students to find a new space, this fresh perspective could do the trick. When writers are on their own time, sometimes moving to a new room in the house or stepping outdoors for some inspiration can do wonders. A quick walk in nature or even a short trip using a hall pass can give students a much needed reset.
- Draw– If the words aren’t coming, have students put pencil to paper to form an image. This can be interspersed with words or a stand-alone visual. Whatever the creation, it can offer a way to get students thinking about their topic in a more abstract way.
Nothing can bring on frustration like sitting down to write and having no words flow from mind to page. With these 10 tips for battling writer’s block, teachers can fortify students’ toolkits with a variety of ways to get those creative juices flowing. Sometimes going off track is the best way to get back on it and complete the task at hand, writing or otherwise.