Creative Rut: 3 Tactics to Help Students Overcome Writer’s Block

Female writer resting at her workplace with hands behind her head

It happens even to the best, most brilliant of students: writer’s block. It’s frustrating to fall into this creative pit, and the blank, empty piece of paper staring right at your pupils certainly isn’t of any help. Most kids would often get so discouraged about this that they’d start to doubt their competence, even though they’ve done writing so many times. It’s the last thing a young, eager writer would want to feel. It’s a teachable moment though. It gives your students a foretaste of what exactly professional writers go through. But all the same, help your pupils get out of this creative rut with these tactics:

Let them know that it’s normal

The thing about writer’s block is, the more that you force yourself to write, the more that it gets bad. There’s a good chance that your student is trying so hard to come up with something, especially when they’re the only person in the room not having anything on their paper. Tell them to relax. More importantly, let them know that what they’re going through is normal. Once they get reassured that they’re not an ‘odd one out’, that everybody struggles with it, they’d be calmer and less panicky. Use this opportunity also to share with the entire class what famous writers do when they experience the block. It would be an exciting discussion on the lives of real-life, professional writers, which can hopefully inspire them to pursue writing as a career someday. You’d also help your frustrated student to take their mind off their blank paper.

Break up the task for them

One reason students experience writer’s block is sometimes, the task is just too big for them. Writing a fairy tale or a poem may sound like an easy task for you, but second-graders? That’s an overwhelming assignment. So, try to break up the task for them. For instance, when instructing them to write a fairy tale, perhaps focus first on one element of the narrative, say, the main character or the setting. Let the students describe their protagonist or the place and time the character is in. Or, you can also give them specific parameters, say, write up to five sentences only in their writing prompt worksheets. This will help them tackle big tasks better and bust out of the writer’s block.

Ask them to scribble ideas off page

writer writing on paper

Sometimes, pupils can’t write anything because they’re not sure yet if what they’ll write would be good for their piece. It feels so ‘permanent’ to commit to an idea or sentence and pin it down on the paper. In these cases, encourage your students to write on a draft paper. With less pressure on the draft, they can freely write anything. Weird ideas. Vague concepts. Misspelt words. Incoherent sentences. This will help warm up their brain cells and get them in the zone. Once they pick up their pace, encourage them to transfer their ideas on their ‘real’ paper. It’s a good practice to display your student’s drafts along with their final pieces. This will help them retrace their steps, allowing for more learning insights, at the same time, communicate to the class that writing is a process, a challenging, grueling process often.

The Antidote to Writer’s Block

Writer’s block is discouraging and frustrating, but it can also present so many beyond-the-lesson teaching opportunities for you. Help your students overcome it with the mentioned strategies.