Chipping away at the block: What to do when you don’t know what to write

Whenever I begin to write anything that has to be more than two sentences long, my writing skills get locked away, my intellectual ability goes on vacation, and my fingers seem to stay locked in the ready-to-type position. That being said, I am usually very good at escaping the torment of writer’s block before falling victim to a mental breakdown. Writer’s block is as common as catching a cold, but the treatments for writer’s block are far simpler than walking all the way to Wawa for some Sudafed. Here’s a short list of cures that are effective for me, no prescription needed.

Cure 1: Stop writing to impress the reader. 

It’s hard to write anything you like when you’re terrified your reader is going to hate it. The only thing that matters during the preliminary stage is if you like what you’re writing. That being said: Write for yourself. Be happy with how your writing voice sounds. No two people have the same writing voice or style, so embrace yours.


Cure 2: Talk out loud.

Whenever I’ve got a bad case of writer’s block, I start saying what I want to write out loud so I can actually hear my thoughts. After I get the first sentence, I read it out loud and just keep talking. This makes the paper flow better, and eventually you’ll have your first paragraph.


Cure 3: Explain the subject to someone.

When you’re not even sure what you’re writing, steal your roommate’s attention or call your mom (which I do all the time; there’s no shame) and explain to them what it is that you’re writing about. My freshman year I had to write a paper about the relationship between three political theorists’ views on human nature, and I had no idea what to write. After explaining the theories to someone else, writing the paper became much easier.


Cure 4: Take a break and goof off.

Every once in a while you have to just step away and goof off with friends or go for a walk in order to get rid of a nasty case of writer’s block. It’s not unusual to see me whip my phone out and begin jotting down notes about my paper while I’m out with friends, making those Tribe choices. Sometimes you have to stop thinking about a subject in order to write about it.

Email Katie Kellenberger at


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