How to Overcome Writer’s Block and Build Your Academic Writing Skills

by Elizabeth Oommen George
Overcoming writer's block and building academic writing skills

So imagine this, you’ve completed your research and are ready to share it with the world, now all you need is to write a good academic paper. But despite having everything at hand, you find you’ve hit a brick wall – it’s the dreaded writer’s block. And it’s not just PhD students who face this speedbump, most researchers have dealt with the writer’s block at some time or the other regardless of where they are in their career. The key to overcoming writer’s block is getting started. Here are some strategies for those wondering how to get rid of writer’s block and build your academic writing skills.

Strategies for overcoming writer’s block

Academics involved in their research work often forget to focus on building academic writing skills that are critical to communicate their work. Researchers can struggle to collate all the data and knowledge gleaned through their research into a compelling, well-structured manuscript. And the most common question at this point is how to get rid of a writer’s block. Here are some simple strategies that help in overcoming a writer’s block and streamline the way forward.

1. Read articles related to your topic: One of the most important things for researchers is to read similar or relevant research articles. Not only is this great in gathering information but it also helps direct your attention to how your research can be presented, helping you develop your academic writing skills. Browsing through related scholarly literature can show you how to structure your findings and understand the type and extent of data to be included in your own paper, which can go a long way in overcoming the writer’s block.

2. Create writing rituals and stick to it: Blocking time to write every day, ideally at a time that you feel you’re at your most productive, and following through will help you create a writing ritual. Set goals in terms of the number of words or number of pages you should write every day, which will give you something to work toward. Having a goal also help you focus on the task at hand and get you in the right frame of mind. Stick to your writing schedule and be kind to yourself; your academic writing skills will improve over time. Writing rituals not only help in overcoming writer’s block in the moment, but will serve you well even in the future.

3. Follow the Pomodoro technique: As per the Pomodoro Technique, working in focused blocks of 25 minutes followed by a 5-minute break can help boost your productivity. For researchers wondering how to get rid of writer’s block, this is the perfect solution. Simply set small writing goals for yourself and plan your day to include bursts of focused writing time interspersed with quick breaks. This helps prioritize your tasks, clear your mind when needed, and refocus on the next task. Ticking off small tasks through the day helps you from feeling overwhelmed, boost your planning and academic writing skills and keeps you moving toward your goal.

How to get rid of writer’s block: Simple steps to get you started

While the key strategies above are great to overcome writer’s block and build your academic writing skills over time, it can often be difficult to put into action. So here are some tried and tested steps that have helped me in the past that can kick-start your journey.

Find yourself a sweet writing spot

One of the best ways to overcome writer’s block is defining your own space to work in. Check for a space that is comfortable, since you’ll likely spend a lot of time here, and also free from noise, distractions, and interruptions. While it’s great to have a devoted space to develop your academic writing skills, a quiet corner at home works just as well if you don’t have this option.

Don’t try to tackle everything in one go

Writing a research paper, especially one based on complex data, takes time, so pace yourself. Avoid trying to tackle everything at once. Plan to work on different sections of the paper at a time; this will allow you to focus as each section needs to be written and dealt with differently. Breaking your writing into smaller chunks helps in overcoming writer’s block and can eventually hone your academic writing skills so the process isn’t so daunting anymore.

Move between writing and editing

A great tip for those who are wondering how to get rid of writer’s block is going to and fro between writing and editing your paper. Feeling stuck when trying to draft a particular section of your article, simply move to editing another part of your research manuscript. What this does is clear your mind and ensure you are always moving forward. Moreover, finding and correcting issues with your work can give you the confidence boost you need to write again.

Find inspiration in other’s work

Sometimes concentrating on your research can overwhelm you, making you wonder what and how to include data in your research paper. Here, it may help to turn to previously published work for inspiration. Browse articles in your target journal for cues on writing styles, how and what data can be presented visually, and how articles with similar research methodology have been written. This can help you reimagine your own research and give you the impetus you need to overcome the writer’s block.

Ask for feedback when you are unsure

For students or those who are in the early stages of their research career, it can be difficult to understand how to deal with often large sets of complex data. One way to overcome writer’s block is seeking advice from your supervisor, mentor or peers. An outside-in perspective and feedback can help you review your academic writing skills. You can also explore trusted AI-powered tools such as Paperpal, which have been designed to refine your English language and hone your academic writing skills.

Join a writing group or researcher community

The life of a researcher can be an isolated one. A heavy workload and intense competition can make it difficult to cope with and overcome a writer’s block on your own. Join a writing group or a supportive researcher community, where you will find the support you need to tackle key challenges and get expert tips on, for instance, how to get rid of the writer’s block. Being part of a larger group is also a great opportunity to gain fresh ideas, be inspired, and share your own views and expertise on broader topics.

We trust the strategies and simple tips above will help you develop your academic writing skills and go a long way in overcoming any writer’s block so you can move forward more confidently.

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