Are you struggling to keep writing or keep getting stuck whilst writing your PhD thesis? The pressure can build up during this time when you’re trying to meet deadlines and complete such a large amount of work to a high standard. We’ve got the top tips to avoid PhD writer’s block when you most need it.

Start writing anything

Sometimes writer’s block can occur when you feel that there is too much or too little on your mind when considering the immense task ahead of you. You can start by writing down on paper what you are feeling in that moment. Noting the thoughts swirling around in your mind, even the worries you have about your thesis, and exploring the root cause of your writer’s block.

This simple but effective task can help to empty your mind and prepare you for academic writing. Confronting your fears about your writing in order to let them go and move on to the thesis. Writing on paper is also an essential technique for this task so you are connected to the feelings and thoughts you are writing. You can even rip it up, burn it and bin afterwards to rid yourself of the fear you might have before writing.

Write Imperfectly

Not only is starting to write a tough task during a PhD, but writers block can occur due to a need for it to be perfect. The first draft isn’t going to be perfect but perfectionism can stop you in your tracks and instead of writing, can leave you focusing on spelling, grammar or correct sentence structures. All of these problems can easily be corrected during the editing process. You can also use an online editing service to help with this considering the large word count required for a PhD thesis.

Get your ideas down first, imperfectly.

Do other things

Putting too much energy and focus into writing your PhD thesis can feel frustrating when you aren’t making any progress. However, doing other things like reading, going for a walk or cooking a meal can help to relieve you of the pressure to write. Allowing your mind to rest and letting your subconscious do some of the work.

Often the best ideas can come from nowhere, when you’re not focusing on the task. By doing other tasks, you can encourage the creative process to overcome writer’s block. However, be mindful of times when you are procrastinating to avoid writing as well. 

Set up a writing schedule

Relying on times when you are feeling ‘inspired’ to write can result in less writing than you need to do to complete your PhD thesis. A schedule on the other hand provides a structure for you to stick to in order to make consistent progress on your writing. Over time you discipline yourself to this schedule and writing becomes habitual. As a result, writing your thesis can become much easier and writer’s block becomes a thing of the past.

If you face writer’s block during your scheduled writing times, use these tips to overcome it. Don’t forget to include breaks as part of your writing schedule to ensure you are not burning out and maintain energy to continue writing.

Quiet your inner critic

As well as perfectionism, fear of failing can be another cause of PhD writer’s block. Your inner critic can have a harsh perspective that stops you from writing altogether. Writing a PhD thesis can be much more difficult to other writing because you also have the opinion of your supervisors to take into account. Therefore, your writer’s block can originate from the dread of feedback or fear of huge amount of editing that can come in the future.

Quieting the inner critic doesn’t mean pushing down the fears and criticism because they can continue to bubble up. Instead, using the first tip you can reveal the fears to understand and overcome them. Encouraging you to be kind to yourself and accepting of these feelings to move on with your writing more positively.

Change your environment and tools

Similar to the first tip, pen and paper can be a great tool to overcome PhD thesis writer’s block. Often sitting in front of a blank computer screen can feel daunting and difficult to know where to start. Physically writing your ideas mean they can be edited to a more cohesive version when typing them up, it can easily be messy and imperfect.

In addition, changing your environment can help you be more creative and also avoid distractions of your home or office. Getting out and purposefully sitting to write will encourage you to focus only on the task at hand and avoid procrastination.