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Breaking Through Writer’s Block

By Josh Hutchison, PhD, director of Logan’s Writing Center

Logan University Student Affairs presents strategies for getting unstuck:

1. WIRMI.

Many people already use this technique but might not know there’s a name for it. You might think of it as “self-talking” or “breaking it down.” WIRMI stands for “What I really mean is,” and how you do it is straightforward: you forget about phrasing things nicely, you forget about citation and incorporating sources, you forget about your potential audience and logical organization and just write what you want to say but can’t seem to put right.

If you find yourself frustrated, you can write a WIRMI just to try to focus your thoughts. Sometimes you have a clear idea of what we want to say, but you just have to give yourself permission to say it plainly.

2. Talk it out.

Talking can be a great way of breaking a writing block: you’ll tend to speak faster than you can edit your own thoughts, which means more of what you are really thinking ends up out in the world. Most people can talk more quickly and fluidly than they can type, so ideas may seem to flow better when speaking spontaneously.

You might talk about your writing in a more formal setting, as in a meeting with your instructor or working with the Writing Center, or in a more informal conversation with a friend or colleague. Another way to “talk” instead of write is to turn on voice transcription and just talk. You’ll still need to translate the result into clear and logical writing later on, but this allows you to just talk instead of type or write.

3. Scaffolding.

Writers sometimes call these extra materials—notes, rough drafts, outlines, etc.—that no one else sees, “scaffolding.” Scaffolding can be anything. For example, you could create tables, charts, and lists that might not wind up in the finished product but which could help you overcome a roadblock or clarify your thoughts when you feel overwhelmed.

Just like scaffolding around a new building, it doesn’t matter how ugly it is so long as the finished product is solid and looks good. Remember, the only thing anyone else needs to see is the final product. Whatever you do before that is a means to an end and only needs to move you forward.

 

For additional tips and help with your writing, contact Josh.Hutchison@Logan.edu or WritingCenter@Logan.edu.