Dissertation writer’s block is one of the most universally feared experiences in a student’s life. You’re sitting in front of your computer, staring at a blank screen, not knowing how to start. You may find yourself writing one or two sentences, only to second-guess yourself and delete them shortly after.
Whether you're a poet, screenwriter, or freelance content creator, it's almost inevitable that you'll experience writer's block at some point in your career. However, it’s more frustrating as a student because you’re working under strict deadlines so much that even a day’s delay will cost you your grades.
Can writer's block be permanent?
No. Writer’s block cannot be permanent. It occasionally comes and goes depending on the writer's mental state, life situation, or environmental factors. However, if not properly dealt with, it can last uncomfortably long.
How long can writer's block last?
Writer's block can vary in length depending on the cause, the individual, and the severity. It can last for a few hours, days, or even weeks. However, it's crucial to address writer's block as soon as it arises, as ignoring it could result in missed submission deadlines and hinder academic progress.
In this blog post, we’ll give you 12 effective tips for overcoming dissertation writer’s block so you can submit your work on time without losing your mind.
What causes dissertation writer's block
Ph.D. students are likely to experience writer’s block while writing their dissertations. Some of the most common causes of dissertation writer’s block include:
- Overthinking and aiming for perfection;
- Disconnection from the topic;
- Feeling overwhelmed;
- Lack of motivation;
- Lack of clarity and focus;
- Fear of failure;
Do professional writers get writer's block?
Yes. Writer’s block is common among all writers, including professional writers. It’s not uncommon to find them stuck and staring at a blank page. Through many years of experience, professional writers have mastered the habits and strategies for overcoming writer’s block.
12 Strategies to Jumpstart Your Dissertation Progress
Writer’s block can hamper productivity and leave you feeling nothing but frustrated. Here are 12 effective strategies to help Ph.D. students overcome dissertation writer’s block when it occurs.
1. Brainstorm your topic and research first
One of the most effective ways to overcome dissertation writer's block is to conduct a comprehensive literature review and research before you start writing.
In most cases, writer’s block occurs because you don’t know what to write about. Before you sit at your desk to write, collect all the relevant sources and research your topic thoroughly.
There are several free online journals and databases that can help you with your dissertation research. Some of them include:
- CIA World Factbook.
- Semantic Scholar.
As you research, take down notes and draw up a rough outline of your paper. These notes will help you to organize your thoughts and make you write more easily.
2. Establish a schedule and avoid distractions
Establishing a writing schedule can help you stay focused and beat the dreaded writer’s block.
Decide beforehand how many hours, time, and days you will spend on your dissertation per week. This allows you to allocate enough time to complete your paper on time.
For instance, you can allocate one hour in the morning to write a section of your paper before starting your day. Early morning is usually a good time since it’s often quiet and distraction-free.
When you finally sit down to start writing, put your phone on silent, and avoid checking on social media or attending to other errands.
This way, you can focus on your writing and become more productive within the stipulated time.
3. Break down your thesis into smaller parts
Look at your dissertation as an assembly of many different parts. Instead of trying to write the whole of it at once, which can be overwhelming, divide it into different sections and allocate a time or a day for each section.
A dissertation paper will have many sections, including the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and discussion section.
For instance, you can try writing the literature review or the methodology one or two days a week. You may also want to break down each section further into sub-sections (e.g., methodology 1 and methodology 2), which you can tackle differently.
Breaking down your paper and handling one part at a time can make your work easier and less intimidating.
4. Start with the easiest part of your thesis
Writing the easiest part of your dissertation first can help you to stay motivated and build momentum as you move to more complex parts.
Depending on your topic, the easiest part may be the introduction, literature review, or methodology.
Remember, you don’t always have to write your paper sequentially. If you experience writer’s block while explaining your methodology, you can skip to less challenging parts like the results or the acknowledgments.
You can also decide to work on more interesting elements like drawing graphs or chats to break the monotony of words. Before you know it, your creative juices will start flowing again, and you can return to the more difficult sections of your paper.
5. Don’t try to get a perfect first draft
A perfectionism mindset is a common contributor to writer's block. When you start writing, simply focus on putting your ideas down on paper, even if they are not perfect.
Write and keep writing without trying to edit or change a thing. Let your thoughts flow, and don’t worry too much about your grammar or sentence structure. Once you finish writing your first draft, you can come back to refine and improve later.
Remember, the final version of your dissertation paper will be a thoroughly edited, reviewed, and revised version of the first draft, so take it easy!
6. Take regular breaks
Sitting for hours, staring at the screen can make you feel unproductive and drained. If you find yourself battling writer's block, you may need to step away from your desk and take a break.
Take a walk around the block, enjoy a cup of coffee, or engage in light physical activity to get your blood flowing. You can also take a nap, chat with a friend or use that break time to meditate and release stress.
You can come back to your work after a few minutes, refreshed and with renewed energy to write. You’ll notice an improved focus and increased creativity.
7. Talk it out with a friend or your supervisor/mentor
Sometimes, all you need to beat dissertation writer’s block is to discuss your ideas with someone else.
Find someone you trust, such as a friend, mentor, or supervisor, and discuss your challenges. Tell them where you feel stuck and may need their help or input.
They may offer helpful suggestions or fresh perspectives for your dissertation that you hadn't considered before. You may be surprised how a small chat can help you gain clarity, confidence, and motivation to keep writing.
8. Join an online community of dissertation writers
A community of dissertation writers can also provide you with a support system and a source of motivation.
If you consistently experience writer’s block, consider joining an online group or community where you can ask questions, share your struggles, and celebrate your achievements.
You can also share tips, strategies, and progress with other students, which may help eliminate writer's block. Find dissertation writer groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, and Quora, and join them for inspiration.
9. Change your writing environment
Working in one environment for a long time can sometimes derail your creativity and send you to writer’s block. That’s why it can be helpful to change your writing environment occasionally.
If you’ve been writing from your office desk for hours, try shifting to a different location, like a coffee shop, a park, or a library.
Writing outdoors where you are in touch with nature can particularly be helpful. Occasionally change your writing environment to help break the monotony and keep your creativity flowing.
10. Seek some help
Finally, if you struggle with writer's block after trying the above techniques, consider seeking help. Hire professional dissertation writers to guide you through the process and help you deliver your dissertation on time.
Take Writers Per Hour, for instance, is a dissertation writing service with some of the team's most qualified and professional writers. Whether you’re looking to write a dissertation from scratch or need someone to rewrite your paper, we can help you when you’re experiencing dissertation writer’s block.
However, it's crucial to resist the temptation of using AI to simplify the writing process due to the potential risks associated with it.
11. Include Practical Exercises
Engaging in practical exercises can provide a much-needed respite from a constant, one-sided intellectual effort and can help to recharge your creativity. Here are some exercises:
Freewriting: Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and write without stopping, even if you're just writing "I don't know what to write." This can help your mind get into the flow of writing.
Writing Prompts: Use a writing prompt to inspire a short piece of writing. You can find many prompts online, or create your own. For instance, "Describe a significant event in your research subject's life," or "How does the environment of your research location affect your topic?".
Mind Mapping: Start with a central idea in the middle of a page, then draw branches off this idea with related points or thoughts. This can help you visually organize your thoughts and identify new angles to your topic.
Journaling: Maintain a regular journal where you write about your day, your feelings, and thoughts about your research. This habit not only improves your writing fluency but also helps in capturing spontaneous insights about your dissertation.
12. Use Time Management Techniques
Overcoming dissertation writer’s block requires effective time management strategies. Several techniques can be game-changers:
Pomodoro method: Break your work into 25-minute focused intervals, separated by short breaks. This enhances productivity and ensures regular mental rest.
Time blocking: Divide your day into task-specific segments to reduce multitasking and increase focus.
Eisenhower Box: Prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance. This helps to focus on what truly contributes to your dissertation progress.
2-minute rule: Immediately complete tasks that take two minutes or less to prevent them from piling up.
Goal setting: Set clear, achievable goals to guide your time management efforts and stay motivated.
These techniques streamline the writing process, prevent overwhelm, and keep writer's block at bay.
Dissertation writer's block is a common challenge that Ph.D. students face. However, by utilizing the 12 strategies, you can effectively overcome mental obstacles, breakthrough writing barriers, and produce high-quality work.
Don't let writer's block get in the way of your dissertation journey. With perseverance and the right mindset, you can achieve your academic goals and produce work you can be proud of.
Keep learning: Plan to Write a 10,000-word Dissertation in 16 Days
Last edit at Jul 27 2023