23 October 2019

Beating the Writer's Block

Do you get writer's block?

Yes, I know this is not a real medical condition, but it might as well be one. We've all been there, I'm talking about that situation where you need to begin writing, but there are so many ideas floating around in your head that you have no idea where to start!

Well, today I would like to share some tips on how I tackle what I like to call 'writing constipation' also known as 'writer's block'.


This academic year has been one huge learning curve, both in terms of the sheer amounts of information as well as the academic practices which I have acquired and perfected to a certain degree. Whilst, coping with the volume of information seemed to sort of come naturally to me, because let's face it I have been 'learning' ever since I stepped into the education system, admittedly getting the hang of good academic practices took me a while to grasp.

Academic Practices

Let's begin by first establishing what I mean by 'academic practices'. A year ago, I was completely oblivious as to what this truly means. A scary prospect especially considering that I went through years of Higher Education studies. At first, I was under the false impression that this was all about conducting good quality research. Astonishingly, good academic practices go beyond the remit of mere research skills, which often involves the ability to write an academic paper or acknowledgement of information through appropriate citations. Good academic practices, covers the remit of participating in a 'solid' discussion about the topic area a person is writing about.

I won't lie, at the start of the year this concept seemed rather nebulous to me, almost alien, I might add. But by simply reading journal articles written by academics in the area of consumer law, I was able to quickly work out what constitutes good academic practice. (It's all of the above and the ability to critically comment on various aspects of a debate)

Writing Constipation

Having grasped this concept, next came the stage where I was required to write numerous papers on various aspects of international business law ranging from comparative studies to highly critique based analysis of legislative instruments such as the CISG. Of course, this sounded pretty straight forward when I was sitting in class, thinking about the things I could write. However, such glory was short-lived as I got down to writing my essays.

First hurdle; where to begin?

Those who have ever written any essay or paper in life, be it for academic or work purposes, will understand when I say that perhaps the hardest thing about the whole process is figuring out where to start. Personally, I often become so overwhelmed by all the different things I could write about and the various ways I could structure a paper. As I regularly encounter this problem this year I tried coming up with a sure-fire solution to tackle this issue!

1) Spider Diagram
I believe this is the first step in tackling the writer's block. Simply get all the thoughts that are floating in your mind out onto a sheet of paper. For this exercise I often make use of Microsoft Onenote, as its unlimited canvas layout allows to me to freely jot down all my ideas anywhere I like on the page. This makes my life so much easier in the next step.

2) Sift your ideas
Once you feel you have all the thoughts that are racing through your minds written down, the next logical step is to distinguish whether these ideas truly help you answer the question or solve the problem you have been tasked with. I have found that this exercise helps focus your writing by eradicating ideas, which don't seem to add much value to your paper. Doing this allows me to truly understand what the question is asking me to do and thus focus myself on working towards tackling the most relevant issues.

3) Organise your ideas
Now that you have sifted through your ideas, you should hopefully be left with issues which are relevant to your paper. Taking a brief overview of what you're required to do, place these idea in a chronological order. I know this sounds confusing at first, but trust me it will all start falling into place once you start adding more detail to each section. Doing this helps me structure my report, whilst lending my points and arguments a natural and logical tone.

4) Expand each section
Before, I jump into writing my essays I always look at my list of ideas and then add notes under each idea about the issues I would like to tackle in each section. As you can guess, by doing this exercise I am essentially, building a rough skeleton of my essay. This also helps me ensure that I do not miss out crucial points. If you feel your ideas are not flowing, this is the time to reorder your ideas so that each idea flows naturally into the next.

5) Begin writing
By now you should have produced a detailed skeleton of your paper, so that all you need to do is paste it over into a new word document or any word processing software you use, and start putting your ideas into sentences and paragraphs.

And there you have it, after writing countless essays throughout my years studying law at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels I have beaten my writers block in this manner. I really hope this method works for you too!


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