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Writer's Block


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My son is writing essays for 9th grade English based on books he reads.  He struggles (mightily) to come up with ideas to support his theses.  Always has.  Does anyone have any generic tips to getting the thoughts flowing?  

 

I am careful not to shoot down his bad ideas when he brainstorms, because that's a normal part of brainstorming.  

 

We're using The Lost Tools of Writing, so he's not having to come up with ideas in a vacuum.  He has some worksheets from The Lost Tools of Writing to help him get his thoughts going....but they're just not going.

 

 

Any generic tips for me to help my student come up with ideas?  In the past I fear I've helped him too much, and now that he has to stand on his own and come up with ideas, he can't.  I need to help him come up with ideas, without feeding the ideas to him.

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I don't have writer's block now, but I did when I was younger. I remember thinking that finding a quiet place to write would help, but it made my mind go completely blank. What did help was moving around, doing something else, talking to myself, and jotting down ideas. Also, the back of an envelope seemed to draw out a lot more ideas than a blank sheet of paper. The envelope would soon be crammed with writing; a nice piece of paper stayed empty. Pretending I'm in a group explaining an idea (talking in front of a mirror if necessary) helps clarify what I want to say.

 

Philosophically, the worst thing was imagining that my writing would express a high level of erudition, wit, humanity, and so on -- something The New Yorker would want. This was probably the biggest roadblock to writing when I was a teenager. The only thing that helped me was getting older, lol, more practical, less perfectionist.

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My kids have writer's block for writing personal statements for applications to programs and for literature mainly due to perfectionism. They think it is not good enough to write it out. When they type, they keep typing and deleting. What help partially was telling my kids to "bluff" (b.s.) their way through their first draft, a blank sheet gets you zero points so even relevant "substandard" work gets some credit. Once something regardless how substandard is written down or typed, it is easier to improve on it.

 

This link from Penn State is useful. http://pwr.la.psu.edu/resources/graduate-writing-center/handouts-1/Overcoming%20Writers%20Block%20Fall%202010.pdf/view

If you look on the left hand side of the page, other topics might be useful too for your child

e.g. Strategies for Writing Literature Reviews http://pwr.la.psu.edu/resources/graduate-writing-center/handouts-1/Literature%20Reviews%20Fall%202010.pdf/view

 

Lori D. would probably have much better tips.

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