Home Arts & Lit Features Take Stock with Writer’s Block

Take Stock with Writer’s Block


Natalie Bartrum offers her top tips for beating the biro blues… 

Let’s face it, we’ve all had those horrible moments when we’re staring at the computer screen with blood-shot eyes, fingers slightly trembling from a heavily caffeinated morning, just gazing at an essay title or an unwritten journal page and asking “Where do I start?” Before you consider quitting university in despair, here are my top 5 tips on overcoming writers block….


1Get out of your halls/flat

There’s nothing more demotivating than staring at the same four walls of your bedroom. Before long, they start feeling like the four walls of an imposing cage. For me, my work desk can become a stifling environment, making me feel disconnected from the outside world. So pack up your laptop, grab a water bottle and head out the door.

photo credit: urbantimes.co


photo credit: exeter.ac.uk

2Find a new location that suits your study needs

If you are looking for a quiet, caffeine-filled, cakes-at-the-ready type of environment, Costa in the forum or Queen’s Café is for you. This is where I head to on a tricky essay-writing day; fellow struggling students are located all round, you can sink in despair among comfy sofas if things get really dire, but not risk insanity from the deathly silence of some other spots.

Plus, sociable spots on campus are great for people watching, and for those creative writers out there you could soon find character models in your very own campus.

Alternatively, there is of course the library that allows you to have a range of sources at your fingertips- from archives, videos, and articles. Who knows, maybe the sheer amount of brain activity and intellectual energy may rub off … eventually.


3Tap into Google-box 

Both the internet and books will allow you to look up what critics, scholars and other people have already said on your essay title. Now I am by no means encouraging plagiarism or academic dishonesty, but research can lead to fast inspiration. It’s worth bearing T.S Eliot’s quote in mind:

photo credit: pinterest.com


4Fresh air and exercise

If perfectly flowing prose is still evading you after the first three steps, then my best advice is to avoid hurling your laptop at the wall in a fit of violence and utter frustration. Instead, “Let it Be” as the Beatles famously sang. Stop typing, back away from the ink-pen and go outside. Go to the park, plug your ears in and escape to another world whilst embarrassingly shaking your booty to “Anaconda”, forgetting you are in a very public place- or is that just me?

photo credit: thejournal.com

Or, if you’re the sporty type, head to the gym (the heart will definitely get pumping after the trek required just to make it to the Sports Park), or don the running leggings and head to Exeter’s beautiful quay. On your sweaty return, revisit the essay and let the endorphins and your exercise break do the talking.


5 Hit the Bottle

Not always recommended, but both myself and friends (I won’t name names) have had a little tipple, be that a pint of beer or a couple of buckets – I mean glasses – of wine to help the writing situation. Alcohol can most definitely loosen those creative writer’s fears, and knock down some barriers. Drunken strands of thought and never before considered ideas can pop up with a little “dutch courage”.

Word of advice: never not submit any work in a tipsy state. Be sure to check the next day for those potential and likely grammatical errors or blurred hand writing, just to be safe.

photo credit: dailyherald.com
photo credit: patheos.com











And beware, never head to a club and then try to write your essay. This will inevitably end in you turning into a puddle of drunken failure on the floor, a very desperate albeit hilarious sight to your fellow flatmates.

Natalie Bartrum

Do you have any advice for your fellow suffering students? Comment below or write to us on the Facebook and Twitter pages. 

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