Changing the “I Cannot Write” Mindset

In hearing a writing assignment is due on Friday, most students’ inner voice tends to scream silent words of self-doubt. The mind may amplify, “Writing is so overwhelming. I don’t know how to start,” or, “I am too critical of each sentence I write.” You are not alone in your perception. In fact, your feelings are quite common. The solution begins with understanding your social strengths, learning a few key writing strategies, constant practice, and accepting each assignment as a means to improve your abilities as a writer.

Personal Strengths

Have you ever considered what makes you a great communicator? Do you have a gift of contributing to a conversation, and are you often praised for your interesting ideas? Writing is just another form of talking and working through ideas and problems. The only exception is, writing allows each of us not to quickly respond, but to organize pondered thoughts into paragraphs; so, while you may be criticizing yourself for staring at the computer screen, thinking is truly the first step to writing. (And, thinking may take a few minutes, hours, or even 24 hours; therefore, once you receive an assignment, get started immediately!)

  • A Good Distraction: Prior to writing, sometimes it is good to think through ideas while walking the dog, riding a bike, or even taking a shower. Keep a notepad handy; inspiration may arrive at an untimely moment.
  • Talk to the Walls:   If the best ideas usually come when you are talking out loud, find a location where you can close the door and talk openly. It may be wise to record your dialogue. Eventually, you will discover the right words and, if they are recorded, never have the chance to remark, “What did I say, again?”
  • Jotting Down Ideas: If you are a visual learner, you may need to write down a few key points and their examples to know where to begin, and how to organize your information. It is wise to walk away for a few hours to look at your thoughts clearly and with a different perspective. Writing should never be rushed.


Even authors and journalists feel overwhelmed by the task of writing. Mental blocks do occur. Once you learn a few helpful strategies, the ability to sit down and write will improve.

  • If you feel overwhelmed by the introduction, write down only one sentence of what you intend to say and move onto an easier task.
  • Once you start writing, keep going. It is important to focus on writing. Once the draft is completed, then the effort can focus on editing.
  • Introductions and conclusions are both important paragraphs. You can begin with a question or an enticing thought to keep the reader interested. Conclusions can offer the reader something to consider. Writing is memorable, and you have the ability to make a reader return and read it again and again!
  • Use a thesaurus to discover a more concise word. This handy book will help you eliminate commonly used words, such as “really,” “very,” and “like.” With more practice, you will begin to use more exciting words that express your true feelings and thoughts.
  • To increase the fluency of your writing, try not to begin two sentences with the same word, and take notice of how often you use the word “that.”
  • Once you finish editing, read your writing out loud and correct those mistakes.
  • Writing is rarely finished. Even published authors return to their work wishing to change a point or a character’s dialogue. With every criticism about your writing, think about how you can use the advice to improve.

Writers Need to Become Readers

Writing surrounds us. It is found on menus and billboards, advertisements and in various types of formats, from social media to newspapers. Take notice of how a sentence is written and the use of vocabulary. If you are unsure of a word, take the time either to infer the definition or research the word’s meaning. And, since we never stop learning about our written language, we can improve both our understanding and editing skills just by paying attention and reading and analyzing everything!

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