How To Beat Writer’s Block

Beating Writer's Block

“I finally decided on the list of schools I’ll be applying to in Round 2 this year and now it’s time to start my essays. I just… don’t really know where to start. Or how to start.”

We hear this from applicants ALL THE TIME — it’s “an oldie but goodie” around these parts.  Let’s get into it.

A Simple Tip for Getting Over Writer’s Block and Getting Words On Paper

If you are stuck in front of a complicated-looking batch of questions, the first thing to do is… ignore them. All of them. Just ignore the questions all together. Instead, focus on the stories you’ve simply got to tell. List them. Write them down. What are your “greatest hits”?

The key is for you to tell YOUR stories. So, no matter WHAT the questions are, you need to make sure that you talk about the best, coolest, most impressive things that you have ever done. Back when I was younger (and I’m not thaaat old) we used to buy CDs. And nobody really knew anything about Bob Marley, but everyone had the Legend album. So why am I talking about this? Because THAT album is Bob’s legacy. What are YOUR greatest hits? Don’t just pick the essay question that is easiest to answer. Forget the essay questions all together! Think about what your GREATEST HITS are, what your best stories are. Then figure out how to fit your stories into THOSE questions.

Now, there is a risk here.  The risk is that you ignore the essay questions, and somehow find a way to write essays that have NOTHING to do with the question asked. Hmmm. That would be bad. Don’t do that. What you should do is find a way to make YOUR stories ACTUALLY answer the question. So, how will you do that? That’s what you’ve got to figure out. But I’ve got to tell you, the same story can be tweaked a zillion ways to answer… ANY question really.

When I applied to B-School, my best story was the time I built my very first building as a real estate developer. And if need be, I could tell that as my greatest success (building the thing), my greatest failure (it didn’t get done until after I left the company), a great leadership exercise (I had a team working for me), a great teamwork exercise (I worked with a team)… you get the idea. But no matter WHAT they asked me in the app, one thing was for certain: I was going to find a way to tell that story every time.

And it worked. For every school I applied to…

So for those of you dealing with writer’s block, step away from the computer, channel your inner Bob Marley and think about what would be on your Legend album. Then get writing!


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