Conquering Essay Block

writing2You boot up your computer, determined to write your college application essay or work on the supplemental questions asked by so many of the Common App colleges. Instead, you find yourself just staring at the blank screen, searching for inspiration and feeling stuck. When writer’s block hits, try these tips for getting unstuck and you’ll have those essays done in no time.

Don’t aim for perfection.
Trying to write the “perfect” essay can discourage you from even getting started. Your first draft is just that: a first draft. Don’t worry about crafting a flawless, amazing essay right off the bat. Just get your initial ideas down as quickly as possible. You can polish your essay into perfection later.

Try free-writing.
Set the alarm on your cell phone to ring in ten minutes (be sure to turn off text messages and incoming phone calls.) On the top of a computer document, write the topic of your essay. For ten minutes, write down whatever comes into your head about the topic. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or spelling. Just do a mind-dump on the topic. Can’t think of anything? Try writing “I can’t think of anything to write” until you can. After ten minutes, read what you’ve written and see what jumps out at you as a possible starting point for your essay. Put that at the top of another document and keep writing.

Dance, shoot some hoops, go for a walk. Exercise relaxes the mind, and a relaxed mind helps rev up creative juices. Don’t use this, however, as an excuse to procrastinate even more. Give yourself a firm time to get back to work and then stick to it.

Shake it up.
If you normally write on your computer, try writing with a pen and paper. Always work in your bedroom? Sit down at the kitchen table or head to the library. Sometimes the best way to beat writer’s block is to switch things up so your mind is jogged out of its comfort zone.

Write early in the morning.
No one likes to get up early, but research shows that our brains and creativity levels are often freshest right after we wake up. Painful as it may be, try setting your alarm on a weekend morning for the time you normally get up for school and then tackle your essay immediately after you get up. You’ll have plenty of time to sleep in once that essay is off your “to do” list.