We are approaching that time of the term when we scramble to find the perfect words to use for our term papers. It could also be the moment when you’re struggling to find a way to silence the cursor on your screen that continuously taunts you every time it pulses on the blank page.  

Fret not! I have gathered a few sweet time-saving tips that will help you push past your writer’s block!

1. Create an Outline

If you’re feeling lost but you have a bunch of ideas in your mind, write them down first! Taking all the information out of your mind and onto a page makes the ideas feel tangible. You can reorganize your ideas into word maps until they make sense to you instead of forcing yourself to remember every detail while constructing your ideas in your mind at the same time. Try making a quick mind map! We can learn faster when we have everything “drawn” out for us to see.

Should you choose to write your ideas into an outline or a mind map, both forms assist with tackling “thought tangents.” Thought Tangents are when you get sidetracked in your writing. For instance, you begin writing about how much you like chocolate, but your original topic was about how to work towards your dream job. Outlines and word maps will help you stay on track when writing and editing your paper! 

Summary: Create an outline or word map to save time during your writing and editing process! 

2. Write, Write, (should I say it again?) WRITE!

If you have an outline written out but you are struggling to find the right words to express your thoughts, try free writing – yes, it is FREE! 

Free Writing may sound like a waste of time at first, but you are subconsciously allowing your creative thinking to unravel. When we write without limitations, we give ourselves the opportunity to think of other ideas that may or may not be relevant to the topic of our paper. Unless we try free writing, we will not know if we will find our ‘good’ ideas from simply staring at the blank page and waiting for ideas to come to mind. 

I suggest writing anything that is on your mind for five to ten minutes. Free writing will help you empty your thoughts and ideas that do not relate to your writing topic. It will give you the creative space in your mind to think about your actual topic. I tried this many times before and sometimes I would write one to two sentences or half a page until I have a ‘eureka’ moment.

Summary: FREE WRITE your thoughts out of your mind to give yourself more SPACE to think more about the topic of your paper.

3. WRITE with a pen and paper instead of typing. 

Yes, I’m reiterating what that professor told you to do in the English course you took in your first year of university. The act of writing with pen and paper may help with your creative process. Some say it works, some say it does not. If you are at the point of desperation, why not give it a try? 

Summary: Write with your hand, pen or pencil, and paper. 🙂 

4. Read something

You may need some inspiration. It may sound like extra work but reading articles relative to what you are writing about can inspire ideas, give you a different perspective to consider, and provide a deeper understanding of the topic. 

Summary: Being productive while not being “productive” by reading articles that can be useful to you and your paper. 

5. Take a break. 

You could be overworking yourself by forcing ideas to exist and may not make any sense. 

Summary: Have a break. Have a _____. (You know what it is). 

6. If all else fails, ASK FOR HELP. 

NEVER shy away from asking for help. You are most likely writing a paper that is worth 30-40% of your final grade. Wouldn’t you want a second pair of eyes to review your ideas? You can visit UBC’s Writing Centre or ask a friend or classmate for assistance in proofreading your paper. 

Summary: Consult a friend, classmate, professor, writing centre, etc. Whoever you’re comfortable sharing your work with, get a second opinion before you submit your work!

From my experience, it is a trial-and-error attempt every time I write. I suggest taking into account the amount of time you have before you choose to follow Tip #5: Take a Break when you have a paper due within the hour. 

Planning a couple weeks before the submission date is ideal, but if you do not have enough time, seize any opportunity to share your work to receive constructive feedback. Having a discussion with someone about your ideas before you write will save time altogether and will reduce your stress when you begin writing your paper. 

Every writing situation is different! Remember to breathe and believe in yourself. 


Works Cited: 

Image: “PenQuin Doodle” by Ryan Wallis via Creative Commons; License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Image: “Doodling” by Mithun Dhananjaya via Creative Commons; License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Image: “Doodle A Day” by Karolis Strautniekas via Creative Commons; License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Image: “Pencil shavings on a notebook” by Angelina Litvin via Unsplash; License: Unsplash;

Image: “The Writer” by Jenna Arts via Creative Commons; License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Image: “Doodles 2014” by Markus Magnusson via Creative Commons; License: CC BY-NC 4.0.

Image: “Doodles 2014” by Markus Magnusson via Creative Commons; License: CC BY-NC 4.0.

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