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Do you have a term paper due tomorrow and have not yet written a word? Are you just getting starting on an essay, poem or research paper and have no idea where to begin? Read on for ideas on how to overcome writer's block, whether you write for school, work or just for fun.

For All Types of Writing:

When I refer to free writing, I mean the following exercise (this can be used for all types of essays and writing). In this exercise, you would pick a topic that interests you (or the assigned topic) and write down everything that comes to your mind about the subject. Try to write for 15 minutes straight without taking your pen or pencil off the paper, or if you are using a word processor, without a break in typing. Do not worry about spelling, conventions, how it sounds, or even if it gets off the topic a little - just write! Later, you can tie it all together and edit your writing.

Getting Started on That Research Paper:

Consider the following questions before declaring that you officially have writer's block. Have you chosen a topic or have been assigned a topic? If you have a topic already, sit tight. If you need to choose a topic, brainstorm ideas. Write down possible topics that you are interested in and consider how easily you will be able to research the topic. Is it such a new idea or concept that you would have to use the Internet for research? If this is okay, then go with it. Brainstorm by writing down all the possible topics that you could write about and then put subtopics with avenues of research next to it. Do this until you have many topics to choose from, and then eliminate those that are too obscure or not so interesting to you.

The next step is research, so if you already have a topic, you can join us again. First, you will want to narrow down your topic by deciding exactly what you are researching, or what you are trying to demonstrate or prove. It is best to come up with a rough idea of your thesis statement before you start researching, otherwise you may waste hours researching something you end up not writing about. Use the Internet to narrow down your topic and get ideas. The Internet is a good source for research papers, and there are many online libraries and articles to use. If you cannot use the Internet for your sources, or do not find what you are looking for, hit the library and search for both books and journal articles, or periodicals. Using the index of the book, find where your topic is discussed and stick a post-it note on these pages so you can refer back to them. For articles, because you normally you cannot check them out, copy the articles that pertain to your topic and then highlight information that you can quote or paraphrase in your paper. If you are in a writing rut, doing the research sometimes gives you ideas for writing. Have a notepad handy while you are doing your research, and write down anything that comes to your mind. If you have done the research and are still at a loss for words, do a free writing exercise. If you are at this point and still do not have anything to work with, sleep on it (if the paper is not due tomorrow of course). You might wake up with some ideas for writing, and with a fresh mind, you would be surprised how this can help cure your writer's block. If possible, wait a few days, that way your frustrations will clear.

Getting Started on That Essay (compare/contrast, reflective, exploratory, persuasive):

There is a formula for writing any type of essay, regardless of what type it is. No matter what type of essay you are writing, you will want to write your thesis statement first, then your intro from there. Some people like to write outlines, but you cannot write anything until you have your thesis statement.

First, decide what you want to write about, if the topic was not assigned. Make sure it is something you are interested in writing about, and consider how much you will be able to write. Keep your audience and purpose in mind when brainstorming and writing. For every type of essay, your purpose is to persuade your audience to feel the same way you do. Look on the Internet or talk to people for ideas. For a compare/contrast or persuasive essay, you will need some professional sources and/or statistics to back you up. Go to the library and research your topic. Write down everything that comes to your mind about the topic or general ideas. Make sure you choose a topic that can hold you and your readers' interest. Make lists, brainstorm ideas and try free writing. If you still have writer's block, I suggest waiting a few days and coming back to it when you are no longer frustrated. Make sure that you have a format for the essay you are writing --look for formats on the Internet and example essays. Another brainstorming activity that can help, which I also recommend for writing poetry, is to make a list of adjectives that describe your topic (romantic, timeless, etc.), and also make a list of verbs and nouns that are associated with your topic. Then, look for ways to connect them into sentences.

Writing Poetry:

First, you must decide what you will write your poem about and what it will look like. If this has not been assigned to you, then you can choose something you care about and/or are interested in. Make a list of possible topics, as mentioned for the essays, and then use a process of elimination based on how well you think you will be able to write on each topic or idea (also consider content - how much you will be able to write). If you have to follow a certain format, for example, your assignment is to write a sonnet, then make sure you have plenty of examples to view prior to writing your own poem. If you do not have to follow a format, then I suggest free verse, which does not require a rhyme scheme (the end of the lines rhyme). This is better, because you can just write and let it flow. Just remember that poetry does not have to rhyme. Try the listing exercise I mentioned at the end of the essay section, and free writing. Pick out the more poetic sentences and try to shape your poem around that. Also, think of similes, comparisons using like or as (her hair was like straw), or metaphors, comparisons not using like or as (her hair, yellow straw, blew in the wind), that you could add to your poem. If you are still stuck, and think that you could never write a poem, talk to people and get ideas. Read other poems, and as I said for the other types of writing, just sleep on it and maybe with a fresh slate in the morning, you will be able to write. Much of writer's block comes from frustration; that is why taking a break is sometimes the best remedy.

Writing Letters:

The best solution for problems with writing letters is to have a format or guide in front of you. Many types of business letters such as cover letters, resignation letters, etc., have samples and templates that you can modify and put into your own words. Look on the Internet, at monster.com, or other websites that offer help with job searching or business writing. You could also look in a business writing manual for templates. Just keep in mind your purpose, audience and most of the time, you want to be short and to-the-point. If viewing formats does not help, make a list of important points you would like to get across in your letter.

For all types of writing, brainstorming, listing and free writing are most beneficial when roadblocks are encountered. Always remind yourself of your purpose for writing and consider your audience. Also, leaving the writing task and coming back with a fresh mind always helps -- do not frustrate yourself further by forcing yourself to write when you are not ready or in the right state of mind. Good luck with all of your writing ventures!