Moving Out of Frozen Mode


Ah, writer’s block – the bane of every doctoral student’s existence. There are times when no matter how hard you try to make progress on your dissertation, the words just don’t seem to flow, and your mind feels as blank as a newly formatted page.

Writer’s block is a phenomenon that has plagued writers for centuries, and it’s no different for doctoral students. The pressure of academic writing can be overwhelming, and sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you try, the words just won’t come. As the RLF describes it, writer´s block becomes a problem when a writer “is not meeting targets and feels incapable of completing a piece of work.”

But fear not, dear doctoral student, for help is on the way! I’ve compiled some inspiring quotes from famous writers that might just help you get through the deep freeze of writer´s block.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London

Sometimes, the key to getting through writer’s block is to stop waiting for inspiration to strike and go after it yourself. Set aside some time every day to write, even if you don’t feel like it. Feel the resistance and fear…and write anyway. You will need to get going with it eventually – so why not now? The act of putting words on a page might just inspire you in unexpected ways. Yes, you are capable, articulate and totally able to get this done. At the graduate level, you have worked through many complex writing projects. That’s one important reason why you’re now in your program.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

Often referred to as the Father of American literature, Mark Twain knew a thing or two about the struggles associated with the writing life. (Check out more about him here.) One of the biggest obstacles to writing is just taking the leap and starting. Don’t let writer’s block keep you from putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Begin with something simple, like a brainstorming session or a skeletal outline, and build from there. Moving into action is the key to building momentum and slaying the nasty procrastination monster.

“The only way to do it is to do it.” – Merce Cunningham

Writing can be daunting, especially when you’re trying to tackle an amorphous doctoral dissertation. But the only way to get it done is to actually write…and then keep writing. Don’t let fear hold you back – just dive in and see where your words take you. You know the time is now.

“Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stay there scowling at the problem.” – Hilary Mantel

Sometimes, the best way to break through writer’s block is to step away from your work (for a short time!) and do something else entirely. Try something active or creative that isn’t writing-related. Many of my clients find that a walk outside can work miracles for a total mental refresh. (Read about the endless benefits of walking here!) The key is to give your mind a chance to rest and reset. But not for too long!

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” – Anne Lamott

Finally, remember that writing is a process, and it’s okay to have bad days. Don’t let writer’s block get you down – just keep writing, even if it feels like everything you’re producing seems terrible. Ok, yesterday may have been a writing disaster; let go of it and focus on today. What can you tackle right now? The important thing is to engage with the project in the present and move forward.

So there you have it, dear doctoral student. Writing can be tough, but with a little humor and inspiration, you can power through writer’s block and get your dissertation DONE. Just remember the wise words of these famous writers and keep pushing onward. Now….get back to it!

Ready to reach out for some dissertation support? Contact me using this form. We’ll set up a time to discuss your project.



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