Ways To Overcome Writer’s Block For International Students

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” –Charles Bukowski

I Snapchatted my close friends a shot of my laptop with blurred words typed out and sad stickers showing my grief over my writer’s block. A sad emoji was only the beginning. It wasn’t too long after when I received snaps back providing me encouragement and pieces of advice that I knew subconsciously would help, but that I didn’t put into action until their feedback inspired me.

What is writer’s block? The phrase was coined by psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler to depict the creative well of a writer running out. Whether this means that you haven’t written in several years or several minutes, at some point, the words don’t come out.

These thoughts probably sound familiar: I’ll have to sit down for a long period of time and I’m too busy. My thoughts are too jumbled up to be written. I could write this or this or this, but then that leads to this. It won’t make sense. That word doesn’t describe what I’m feeling. I don’t have enough information to write.

The pain worsens when you’re trying to write in another language. The pauses occur too often when you stop and question your correct use of grammar or if what you just typed is even a word.

Below are a few tricks and tips that might help in a multi-cultural fashion to your traveling student mindset.

  1. Remind yourself of the steps. It helps me not feel too overwhelmed with a piece of writing when I remind myself that writing is just the first part, and that there are multiple steps to take after I write that makes the final product. It seems opposite to the whole idea of writing and getting projects done. Feeling less overwhelmed when there’s more work to be done doesn’t make sense. The science of writing is simple in that your first draft is never going to work out unless you strike gold. But writing is possible, even in a short amount of time.
  2. Physically prepare your body and utensils. Maybe you use paper and pencil, or maybe you prefer typing. Maybe you speak your document aloud and your phone transcribes it into letters on your screen. Have the equipment ready. Stretch your fingers before and after. Roll your neck and give your head a small massage. Open your mouth wide and get ready to spit out twice the amount of words that will stay in your final draft.
  3. Use your environment. Go outside. It’s sunny and why imprison yourself indoors if you can soak up some vitamin D and maybe grab your pen and pencil with you. If you’ve written to your heart’s content, go inside and type what you just handwrote. If you were listening to music before, stop the music now and focus on your words, then vice versa.
  4. Don’t think about it. Think about your boyfriend who’s always sending you kiss and heart face emojis, and just write. Something is always better than nothing.
  5. Read. Images and concepts might pop in your head but once you see examples of great literature, writing is easier to grasp at since it’s something so tangible.

When writing this post, I stopped halfway through my first draft. I couldn’t continue until the first snap from my cousin reminded me that it was a nice day outside and that maybe a change of scenery would help, as well as give me time to enjoy the summer sun. Then a snap from my friend from college said that what helps her is opening up a second document and writing a stream of consciousness. So, I wrote whatever was on my mind as I was soaking up some sun in my parents’ backyard.

Every day, type. For the remainding minutes of your favourite song. For five minutes. Type like it’s your every breath, like you must. Don’t stop – just keep typing. Because if you stop, then your brain will start to think. And if it starts to think, then you’ll stop writing because it will overfill your mind, then overwhelming, daze and confuse you. You can always go back and edit, so that should never be a worry. But if you can pick a random song and put it in the back ground, type for the length of that song and keep going until your body doesn’t allow you to. Like right now when the bathroom calls… just one more minute…

It’s called a stream of consciousness. When you write without thinking, it frees your mind and creative energy.

Give yourself time. Getting organized and creating habits for yourself frees up so much creative energy that you’ll never want to stop writing on your time off. But you’ll need to provide yourself that. I had writers’ block for over a month because I wasn’t giving myself time to search for inspiration; to even write out my ideas. They were all jumbled up in my brain. But my schedule now allows me to work on what I need to work on.

I watched a really great video of Benedict Cumberbatch reciting a letter from one artist to another.

“Stop it and just DO!”

“Stop worrying about big, deep things… You must practice being stupid.”

Ideas on how to overcome your writer’s block!

  • Create weird challenges to learn more about the culture, language or politics of the country you’re in.
  • Copy vocabulary used by a famous author in the country’s literature.
  • Notice your environment. Your senses can keep memories of the weather and landscape fresh in your mind.
  • Use social media as your inspiration. If you find a post of a location you’re at in that moment, capture the scene in your own words.
  • Browse through your travel photos and capture the insight in words what you captured in sight.
  • Change your environment. The benefit of traveling is that everything is new, and that if one location is already exhausted, you can find somewhere new to change your writing.
  • Time yourself.
  • Write a stream of consciousness to get all of the extra out of your brain and write just on the topic at hand after the exercise.
  • Use all of the new cusswords you learned in the language and use that to inspire a piece of writing.

One important note: don’t wait for inspiration.

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Ivonne Mora

Ivonne is an idealist who seeks community but loves her freedom. Her recent rediscovery of her Peruvian background has sparked a newfound love and interest in Peru's rich culture (especially the food). Ivonne was drawn to Rakbo's work because it is a group that empowers people during a time of confusion through the power of writing, investigation, and a shared passion for worldly experiences.

One comment

  1. Really great article, Ivonne! As someone who is trying her hand at writing a blog and has to produce a literature essay once in a while your advice is really helpful 🙂 And great point on having to write in another language too 🙂

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