4 Creative Exercises to Revitalize Your Academic Writing

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After working on your research paper for what feels like an eternity, it’s not uncommon to find yourself stuck, dreading the blank page and unsure of what the next step is. If you’re doubting yourself, wondering why you even started writing this in the first place, and toying with the idea of quitting while you’re ahead, don’t worry—every author has been there. The process of writing a dissertation or another academic paper is long and grueling, with no shortage of obstacles along the way. Still, don’t be quick to give up! 

Sometimes, the key to breathing new life into your writing and finding the motivation to keep going is to remind yourself of what got you interested in the research in the first place. Think back to the day you decided to embark on this journey, the goals you set, and the way this fits into your long-term plans. Rediscover the passion for your project, envisioning how you’ll feel and what benefits you may reap when it’s finally published in a reputable outlet. 

Maybe all you need is a break from writing or even thinking about your research. Your brain will continue to process your work in the background as you’re relaxing in the bathtub, enjoying a walk, or getting lost in a great book. Then, when you go back to writing, you may suddenly find you’re bursting with brilliant ideas. However, that’s not always enough to pull you out of a serious writing slump—sometimes, you need to get creative. 

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If you’re still working on your paper and trying to shake off writer’s block, here are four creative exercises that can reinvigorate your academic writing. 

1. Write about the worst part of your research

If you’ve been avoiding writing, there’s probably something about it that bores, annoys, or intimidates you. So, why not delve into some of the problems? Identify the worst parts of your research and elaborate on the toughest aspects for you. Ask yourself how it’s making you feel and why, and begin to demystify it. Once you break it down and analyze it, you’ll either figure out a solution or realize it’s not as big of a deal as you initially thought. 

If your avoidance is due to part of your research being boring or overly technical, there are ways to make writing about it more enjoyable. For one thing, work on making your writing engaging and interesting, not only for you but for the reader as well. You can also set goals and rewards for yourself as you wade through the paper—for example, whenever you finish a page, treat yourself to a piece of chocolate. Tweak this system to find the right balance of goals and rewards for you.

2. Write about the best part of your research

Another option is to try the inverse. What’s the most fascinating part of your research? What attracted you to the subject matter in the first place? What do you love most about it? Give your mind free rein and just write, without overanalyzing. 

Remembering why you started your research can not only motivate you to get past your writer’s block, fill you with inspiration, and recharge your batteries, but it might also help you get a fresh perspective on your work, an angle you missed before. Write in detail and focus on the most innovative and fun part of it—you might just surprise yourself. You may even be able to tweak some of this writing and use it in your paper. Whatever the outcome, write for yourself to get the most benefit.

3. Brainstorm funny or absurd titles for your paper

Sometimes, all you need is to get a bit silly, to forget the seriousness of your work for a moment and have some fun with it. Come up with a list of crazy, amusing, or preposterous titles for your paper, without putting any pressure on yourself to be clever or original. Just have fun—you want to unburden your mind, blow off some steam, and temporarily ditch the formalities. You can even share some of your titles with your colleagues or friends, which can add an extra layer of depth to the exercise. 

The titles you create can be completely nonsensical, punny, or irrelevant—simply try to make yourself laugh to take some of the pressure off. Examining your article through a comedic lens can also refresh your perspective and breathe new life into your writing, so try to get creative here. Who knows? You might accidentally stumble onto some insights or find inspiration that turns your paper around.

4. Write a detailed account of your data-gathering process

Thinking back to the data-gathering process can not only remind you of what excited you in the beginning but also bring back memories you may have overlooked when considering your thesis. Through this exercise, you may realize that a fleeting thought you had or an instinct you ignored for some reason offers a more original take on your work. 

You can try this exercise with other parts of your research—recalling in detail particular stages of your project and the thoughts and feelings associated with them can uncover a wealth of insights that you didn’t even realize you had.

Creativity is not usually something associated with research papers, but it can help you shake off your writer’s block or motivate you. While it’s easy to lose that initial excitement about your research when you get to the writing part, these fun creative prompts can help you slip back into the rhythm of putting your article together. Let’s not forget the power of habits and discipline, either—motivation is fleeting, but discipline is reliable. We all have days when we just don’t feel like writing, but once you force yourself to sit down and get cracking, you may find you’re making a lot of progress.

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