Ask a Nerd!

Question: I always get writer’s block. What’s the cure?

Brief: Writer’s block is very common but it can drain a lot of your time. This can become especially important if you are doing an in-class essay for an AP class or if you are limited to 25-30 minutes for your SAT or ACT essay. As an Orange County private English tutor, I recommend breaking up your writing process into two steps.


I once had a fabulous professor who told me to “just write” and worry about the rest later. I found his advice to be extremely helpful throughout the rest of college and beyond. Break your writing up into two steps: Writing and editing (READ: “5 Reasons Students Should Blog“).

Step 1

Just write. Write anything, anything at all. Write something that has to do with the subject. Write something that has nothing to do with the subject. If you are particularly stuck then write: “I don’t know what to write because I have writer’s block and I don’t really have a stance on whether or not authority figures are an important part of my life because I think it’s just a good idea to do as I’m told”. Oh wait, you just wrote a rough draft for your thesis on authority figures! See how that works?

If you have something on paper, an Irvine English tutor can help you with step two but a tutor can do absolutely nothing with a blank page. I also like to call writer’s block ‘blank page syndrome’, because a blank page is really no help at all. Getting back to the point…

Write down anything. You can write about the weather or how you are annoyed that you have to sit down and write. The main idea is to get the brain started on its task and to cease avoiding the undertaking of essay writing (READ: “Five Books to Help You Write Well“).

Step 2

Edit. Once you have a rough draft with tons of typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and sentence structure issues (remember this is part of a rough draft), you can move on to the editing process. Getting the content down is the most important part, and you have already completed that.

You can edit on your own, edit with a study group or ask a tutor for help. If you are in an AP class or if the SAT exam is in your near future, then I recommend having a tutor look through at least some of your work to see if you are on the right track.

Step 3

Time yourself. If you are planning to prepare for a timed essay then you need to practice getting your time down to at least 2-3 minutes under the clock. So, if you only have 25 minutes to complete an essay, then you should be able to finish in 22-23 minutes after a lot of practice.

Timed writing is one of the most common problems for students as it is much easier to write, and write well when you have plenty of time. Master the first two steps and don’t start on step three until you feel entirely comfortable that your content and editing abilities are first-rate. A tutor can also help you with many strategies for speed writing (and speed reading). You can start by timing yourself using the quick-timer on your phone. Remember to practice in a place with little to no noise distractions (CLICK: “Top Ten Tips For Timed Writing“).

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