There have been a lot of times I’ve left my desk dissatisfied about what I wrote in my IA or felt down because I couldn’t find a new aspect to write about in my EE. Between IAs, the EE, TOK essays, and writings for classes in general, experiencing writer’s block at some point is inevitable.
What is writer’s block?
Writer’s block is a creative slowdown. It involves you staring at your computer screen or paper for endless time and being seemingly unable to write one good thing that satisfies you, and it’s frustrating. We can’t be productive all the time; that’s why there will be moments where your writing is not as good as it normally is. The following tips helped me get through my Biology IA and my EE — hopefully they work for you too!
Tip 1: Leave It.
I wrote half of my EE in a very short time, but got stuck on the last body paragraph. At first, I reread what I wrote, hoping to gain inspiration, but that didn’t light any bulbs in my mind. Then, I tried researching and thought I found something new, but that didn’t work out either.
The best thing I can suggest is to leave it for another time. If you are not in a hurry to meet the deadline, you should leave the assignment for at least a couple of days. Forcing the creative process along will only worsen your writer’s block. Being around the same writing ideas is not going to make you find new perspectives. Leaving it alone will allow you to get away from those unworkable ideas. Put your energy into something else! This will help you look at that assignment with fresh eyes when you come back to it. Sometimes it just doesn’t work and leaving it is more beneficial than being stuck to it.
[Conclusion] Writer’s block is a nightmare of mine because the IB requires a lot of writing, but I got through it with these tips, and I hope they work for you too. If they don’t work out, do not worry — everyone has different needs. I hope you find something that suits you better instead!
Tip 2: Break the procrastination cycle
Leaving the assignment alone for too long might make you feel like you are never going to write it and new ideas will never come to you. Or, because you are used to pretending that assignment doesn’t exist, it’s difficult to bring yourself back to it. When I was writing my Biology IA, I forgot about it until I was reminded that it had a deadline. Shocker, right?
This moment is where you need to put pressure on yourself to get up and write. Break that procrastination cycle. Sit down for two minutes and work on your assignment, because two minutes’ worth of writing is better than none. You need to be your own authority here and be disciplined in your work ethic. The best strategy is to set deadline reminders everywhere so you’ll remember that task and be forced to break the procrastination cycle.
Tip 3a: Follow every lead.
If you broke out of your dissatisfaction phase and decided to force yourself, this is for you. When I came back to my EE, I had a few ideas but thought none of them were good enough. I opened the outline I had prepared and clarified previous ideas I’d had, trying to form arguments out of them. Then, I did research to strengthen those ideas.
While reading an article irrelevant to my overall topic, I found a few descriptions of the characters of the book I was writing about. That sparked a eureka moment. I started with those quotes and tried to reason them myself and wrote my last paragraph. Try to follow every trail you have, even if you end up not using it. It can always lead you to something else that is useful. So pick up your previous ideas, even if it is from the beginning of the writing process, from the trash and try to turn them into gold.
Tip 3b: Get another perspective.
Upon finishing the introduction for my Biology IA, I realized I didn’t know what to write context-wise. I needed background information — but what could I include? Watching ‘‘What to write in background information’’ YouTube videos didn’t help either (but maybe they would help you, so watch them anyway).
Finally, I asked my fellow IB friends and explained my topic to the ones who were willing to listen. Believe me when I say sometimes friends can be better guides than your teachers. You don’t need to use all of their suggestions (I didn’t), but seeing how other people would proceed if they were in your shoes definitely gives you a clear idea on what to do. If you’re on the IBlieve Community Slack, you can also ask me personally through there, as I’m available and open to any requests. Talking with a teacher or searching similar articles can be useful sources as well.
My second piece of advice here is to find out the EEs or IAs from your school’s previous graduates. Aside from being inspired by them, getting to know your school’s writing style and understanding how examiners evaluated that writing will help guide you. Even looking at the table of contents of one of my school’s graduates helped me format my writing. Searching for and reading as many examples as possible will open doors to new knowledge.
Tip 4: Take pride in your work
Treating yourself after writing even one new paragraph will minimize your chance of falling back into the “failure” state of mind I mentioned in Tip 2. You got through your writer’s block, and that is something to celebrate! Reread the parts you wrote and be proud of your accomplishment. I was so happy to be finding a new aspect and reminded myself of it repeatedly. I felt like it motivated me to write further and prevented any possible writer’s block.
Writer’s block is a nightmare of mine because the IB requires a lot of writing, but I got through it with these tips, and I hope they work for you too. If they don’t work out, do not worry — everyone has different needs. I hope you find something that suits you better instead!