Five steps to get over writer’s block while writing your dissertation

Writer’s block is a formidable obstacle many students encounter while working on their dissertations. It’s not just a mental hurdle; it can also have physical and emotional ramifications.

According to recent research, writer’s block affects a significant portion of students, with 70% experiencing it occasionally and 24% nearly always grappling with it. The challenge persists for those pursuing a PhD, with 55-64% still struggling to complete their dissertations.

Adela Belin from Writers Per Hour provides effective strategies for dissertation writers to overcome writer’s block and stay motivated throughout the writing process. 

1) Set realistic goals

Adela, an expert in academic writing, emphasises the importance of setting achievable goals. ‘Break down your dissertation into smaller, manageable tasks,’ she advises. ‘Set deadlines for each task and celebrate your progress along the way. This will help you stay motivated and focused.’

Setting realistic goals involves determining what needs to be done and accurately assessing how much time each task will take. For instance, rather than setting a broad goal like ‘write a dissertation chapter,’ break it down into specific tasks such as ‘research literature for Chapter 2’ or ‘draft outline for Chapter 3.’ By breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment as you complete each one, boosting your motivation to continue.

2) Create a structured writing schedule

Establish a structured writing schedule to maintain consistency and momentum. ‘Set aside dedicated time for writing each day or week,’ Adela suggests. ‘Find a routine that works for you, whether it’s early in the morning or late at night. Stick to your schedule as much as possible to cultivate a productive writing habit.’

Creating a structured writing schedule involves more than just designating a time slot for writing; it also entails creating an environment conducive to productivity. Eliminate distractions, set up a comfortable workspace, and minimise interruptions during your writing sessions. By consistently dedicating time to writing, you’ll develop a habit that makes it easier to overcome writer’s block and make progress on your dissertation.

3) Break tasks into smaller chunks

When faced with overwhelming tasks, Adela advises breaking them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. ‘Focus on one section or chapter at a time,’ she says. ‘This approach makes the writing process less daunting and allows you to make steady progress.’

Breaking tasks into smaller chunks makes them more manageable and helps you maintain focus and clarity. Rather than attempting to tackle an entire chapter in one sitting, break it down into subsections or specific aspects to address.

For example, if you’re writing a literature review, break it down into sections based on themes or research questions. This approach allows you to concentrate on one aspect at a time, making it easier to generate ideas and overcome writer’s block. Using focus blocks is a great way to help you work like this.

4) Seek support from peers or mentors

Don’t underestimate the power of support from peers or mentors. Adela encourages graduate students to seek feedback and guidance from colleagues, advisors, or writing groups. ‘Sharing your challenges and receiving constructive feedback can provide valuable insights and motivation,’ she explains.

Building a support network of peers and mentors can provide invaluable assistance throughout the dissertation writing process. Whether it’s discussing ideas, troubleshooting problems, or receiving feedback on drafts, the support of others can help you overcome writer’s block and stay motivated. Consider joining a writing group or forming a peer support network where you can share your progress, exchange ideas, and provide encouragement to one another.

5) Practice self-care and stress management

Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is essential during the dissertation writing process. Practice self-care activities such as exercise and meditation, and spend time with loved ones. Managing stress and prioritising self-care can help you maintain balance and resilience.

Adela explains, ‘Self-care is not just an indulgence; it’s necessary to maintain your well-being and productivity. Incorporate activities that promote relaxation and stress relief into your routine, such as yoga, meditation, or mindfulness exercises.

Take breaks when needed, and don’t neglect your physical health by prioritising sleep, nutrition, and exercise. By nurturing your well-being, you’ll be better equipped to overcome writer’s block and stay motivated throughout the dissertation writing process.’

More strategies for overcoming writer’s block

In addition to the essential steps outlined above, Adela offers specific strategies to help students overcome challenges and stay motivated during the dissertation writing process.

  • Celebrate milestones: Acknowledge and celebrate each milestone you achieve, whether it’s completing a chapter or reaching a word count goal. Recognizing your progress boosts your morale and keeps you motivated.
  • Visualise success: Visualise yourself successfully completing your dissertation and achieving your academic goals. Use visualisation techniques to stay focused and motivated, especially during challenging times.
  • Stay flexible: Remain adaptable and open to adjustments in your writing process. If a particular approach isn’t working, don’t hesitate to try something new. Flexibility is critical to overcoming obstacles and making progress.

Writers Per Hour is an essay writing service based in Brooklyn, NY, offering custom-written papers across various disciplines and academic levels.