Writer’s block continued: a different perspective

Rebecca Black, Sports Editor

Previously, I discussed writer’s block from my own personal experience. Being an English major, I have experienced writer’s block in ways that are different from writer who is a history, psychology or even business major. Each paper has different specifications, and numerous different ways to approach it.

Recently I sat down with Professor John Langdon of the History Department, and Professor Dennis O’Connor and Professor Daniel Orne from the Business Department. Each of these professors has experienced writer’s block himself and provided different strategies to overcome the difficulties of writing a paper.

According to Langdon, writing a history paper is different because you must have a solid grasp of the content before you actually begin writing. History is fact-based; therefore, you must have previous knowledge to understand the topic of a paper.

“With history, you need background knowledge. Sometimes it is not always writer’s block with students,” said Langdon. “Students need to ask themselves if they are really blocked, or is it that they do not have the background knowledge to begin writing. You must research and gain a type of background before you begin to write.”

To help overcome this type of block, Langdon advises students to “know what it is you are writing about, and have a firm grasp of the content. It really helps to know the subject in detail ahead of time as that will help you in the end.” One tip that Langdon has for students when encountering writer’s block is to first start writing about anything in your head or something you just did.

“Sometimes I rewrite an article that I have just read,” Langdon said. These types of strategies are helpful in getting you in the right mindset to begin writing. Additionally, placing an outline of the paper on a bulletin board near you will help you stay organized.

“Eventually, in my experience, after about 20 or 30 minutes, the subconscious begins to set in,” Langdon said.

“Before I start writing,” O’Connor said, “I put the paper off, and put the topic on the backburner.”

One tip he gives for students to begin to get started with writing comes from the book “The Artist’s Way.” Each morning, when you get up, write for 15 minutes. This type of writing strategy serves as a type of warm-up for the writer, before they actually begin writing the essay.

“It is similar to a stretch, or a warm-up right before a sprint,” said Langdon. “No matter what, writing will always become confusing and difficult. Writing skills are not like Captain America. There is no injection to become a good writer; you must work out and practice writing to gain these skills.”

Another of Langdon’s tips is to discuss an essay with someone.

“Verbally talk it out, or use a recorder. Explain what you want to say and test it out,” said Langdon.

It is helpful to voice out ideas with others. That way, you can see if it makes sense. Writer’s block is different for each person, as it is “easier to help others with writer’s block than ourselves.”

Orne observes that one of the most difficult parts of writing is not only understanding what topic you will be writing about, but what connection you make to the essay itself.

“It is difficult to write about something that you do not find meaningful,” said Orne.

Similar to O’Connor’s strategy of writing in the morning, Orne also believes in the strategy of writing early in the morning as a warm-up. Furthermore, he believes that it is important to find the right time of day for you to write. Everyone works better at different times during the day. While the morning may work for others, some focus better at night.

Orne notes that when you take a break from writing a paper, it is important to never truly stop: “Keep a post-it note of where you left [off], to refer to and what things to add. Life always draws you away, and writing down these ideas will make the start-up easier. Writing is a process, and it is not just about starting the process, but keeping up with the momentum.”