Time and time again I get students – mostly adults going to college – who are intelligent, talented, and have interesting things to say in conversation. But when it comes to writing an essay, they freeze after the first sentence.
I used to wonder at why this happens because these students obviously have important things to say and want to express themselves.
Is it the lack of skill? Well, yes, to a degree – essay writing techniques certainly help. But that is not the main reason, as I discovered.
It isn’t the lack of knowledge, because they have usually read the material and very often have done more research than was necessary. Way more.
As I worked with hundreds and then thousands of students – in the classroom, in one-on-one tutoring, and through my website – I noticed a pattern. These smart and hard-working students were stuck because they were afraid to make a statement.
Let me say it again:
College students have a deeply rooted fear of stating an original thought and then supporting it using evidence!
How do I know this? Well, first, I came to this conclusion when I noticed the pattern I described above – the students that contact me for help are usually intelligent, have the knowledge, and really want to write that paper even if only to get it over with.
But second, as you may well know, we live in a very politically correct society. Every day we find ourselves in environments that demand that we watch what we say lest we offend somebody.
And as a result we’ve grown to be afraid to say a simple thing in plain English. And this fear leads directly to the fear of the blank page, otherwise known as ‘being stuck’ or “the writer’s block.”
Hey, you may agree or disagree with me but think back to the last piece of writing you did anywhere – at work, in school, or even on social media. Have you ever written something and then gone back and edited it? And then edited it again just to make sure nobody is offended? Well, that’s a symptom of this fear.
So, What Can You Do About It?
I wish I had an easy answer because the solution lies deep within you. Getting rid of all kinds of fears takes work.
But I’ll give you three steps that you can take right now and start making progress. Perhaps you’ll even get out of your writer’s block just by reading this post to the end. Here you are.
Three Steps to Getting Rid of the Fear of Making an Original Argument
Step 1. Ask Why You Must Handle This Fear
This is probably the most important question in getting anything done. Ask yourself why you really need to overcome this fear.
What will it do for you when you have overcome it?
How will it continue to cause you pain if you don’t overcome it?
Just ask these questions on paper.
Step 2. Write Down Your Thesis Statement
Just write down what you really want to state in your paper – what you really want to argue.
In other words, if you weren’t afraid of anything in the world, what would you argue for or against in your paper?
Just write it down in a complete sentence (or two).
Step 3. Contemplate Your Thesis Statement
Look at your newly created argument that you’ll be supporting in your essay or term paper. Read it a couple of times.
How do you feel about it? Are you proud of your original thought? How does it feel to say what you feel should be said?
Write down a sentence or two about how you feel.
And then write a sentence or two about why you really should stick to your guns and argue this exact point.
That’s it. Once you’ve done this, you’ll notice that you are already writing. Your writer’s block will be gone. And you’ll feel great about yourself and your courage to say what you feel should be said.
And the next step for you will be to write the complete thesis statement, which you can learn in this blog post.