Tips for writer’s block

Tips for writer’s block

Writer’s block can be a big stumbling block when trying to write your PhD thesis, grant or a paper you are trying to get publish. During the early stages of writing my PhD thesis I suffered a lot from writer’s block; however, as soon as I got into a rhythm of writing, writer’s block was a thing of the past as I zoomed through page upon page of my introduction. Looking back on it now I realize what elements resulted in me having writer’s block and how I overcame it. Therefore I thought I would write this article to talk about some of the elements that stopped me putting pen to paper and provide tips for writer’s block.

Not knowing enough about a topic

For me and for most people this is the main reason why people get writer’s block, ” If I don’t know what I am writing about, how can I write?”. When I didn’t know enough about the topic I was suppose to start writing about I couldn’t write, which is blindly obvious when you think about it. A nice example is if you had to write an article about your family or lifestory, although you may small delays in your writing you could immediately start writing and cover a few hundred words in a short period of time. To try and combat this lack of knowledge I would read a small bit, then try to start writing. But again this resulted in zero productivity and not much progress. So what I decided to do was stop writing, for my topics within my PhD thesis that I needed to cover I would try to read about 20-30 papers before I started to write. Once I had covered a body of publications about a specific theme or topic and started to see repetition in peoples publications I would feel confident that I had an understanding of the area and therefore would be able to write a few hundred words about the topic.


Anxiety can play a big part in writer’s block. Writing any piece of literature can be very stressful for some people if the piece of literature has to be read or marked by an examiner. This especially can be the case if you are writing your PhD thesis and submitting it to an expert examiner in your field. Therefore overcoming anxiety can make huge strides in improving your writing and building confidence. Again from my point above, knowing your literature is key to building confidence, overcoming anxiety and beginning writing success.

Writing when tired

Writing when you are tired will lead to little productivity, if you are tired you might be on a sugar low and needing sleep. Therefore you are not in a good position to start writing. If you are tired and need to take a break, take one. If you can try and use your imagination to think about some interesting ideas you have for your thesis and put them down, but relax and return to the laptop once you have recharged.

The dreaded opening sentence

Writing the perfect open sentence is possible, but not always necessary. Starting a paragraph with a well defined sentence that opens up your paragraph is always a good start. However, a quick way to write a great opening sentence is to look at examples of what other people in your field use to write an opening sentence for a topic. This will give you ideas for sentence structure and how to lead into what you are about to discuss.

5th May 2022 Sean Mac Fhearraigh

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