The essays you are assigned in college are not only key tasks that help build your overall writing skills, but they also force you to prove in writing how well you can form and support your own thoughts and opinions on the material you study in class. After all, college isn’t simply about memorizing a bunch of right or wrong answers—it’s also about discovering and exploring why and how certain answers and ideas are right and wrong. As beneficial as essay writing is, many students find it difficult to get started. To combat this, we will examine six ways of curing essay writer’s block.
- Brainstorm ideas. One of the trickiest parts of essay writing is choosing a topic, but brainstorming can help you generate potential topics. The University of North Carolina identifies clustering as a key brainstorming technique. Clustering involves writing down a broad term, like philosophy, and breaking that word down to branches such as metaphysics, logic, politics, or religion. From each of these, break down the topic further. The more branches you break down, the closer you will come to generating a viable topic idea for your philosophy paper.
- Research. Once you’ve chosen your topic idea, start researching that topic. See how much has been written about the topic and use the research process to further narrow your topic. If too much research is out there on multiple facets of your topic, your topic may be too broad. If too little research is available, you topic may be too narrow. Take notes while researching, being sure to cite the source and page number in your notes for future use. Be sure to note your personal responses to the research you find. Refer to these notes when you start writing your essay.
- Ask your professor for sample essays. If you have a topic idea and have conducted some research and are still having trouble getting started, ask your professor to show you some examples of previous successful essays submitted in the class. Examine how the student who wrote the essay broke their topic down and try to model your own essay in a similar fashion.
- Outline. The process of outlining breaks your topic down into more manageable chunks so your entire essay becomes less intimidating. Instead of writing an entire essay in one sitting, you can concentrate on fleshing out sub-topics.
- Freewrite. UNC also recommends freewriting, or simply writing the first things that come to your mind without referring to your research or editing what you write. This will get the creative juices flowing; you can refine what you write later.
- Block out distractions. When you decide to work on your essay, make sure you do so in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, such as the library or your dorm room at a time you know your roommate won’t be around. Turn off the TV and listen to music only if you need it to block out more distracting noises. This creates an atmosphere conducive to essay writing.
Did you enjoy this article?