How to Beat Writer’s Block and Write a Powerful Personal Statement

You’ve picked your dream school, taken your GRE, and gotten your letters of recommendation. You sit down to write, and the blinking cursor on the blank page taunts you. You’re frozen. What to write? Who am I? What makes me special? How do I sum up my entire life, my future, and my intellectual and professional mission in 1000 words?!?!? ARGHHHHH!!!! Oh no, you have writer’s block!

In most cases, people get writer’s block because the skip an important phase of the writing process. Instead of beginngin by just letting ideas flow in a non-self-critical way, they obsess over every word, and start to tear down their own ideas before they even get fully formed.

The trick to beating writer’s block is to make the first stage of writing private, low stakes, and focused on just generating content. But it has to be great content, right? Nope. Making it great comes later. What you need to work out first are your ideas in all of their sloppy, half-baked, meandering, wonderful messiness.

You see, one of the unusual things about people is that we have beliefs and ideas that we don’t even know we have. Our motivations are unclear, even to ourselves. That’s where this writing exercise comes in. The exercise I explain in this video will only take 15-20 minutes from start to finish, but it could provide you the tools you need to make a fantastic personal statement. I’ve taught this technique in seminars and in my classrooms for over a decade, and every time, two things are true. (1) Many (sometimes most) students think, “why are we doing this? This is touchy-feely hippy garbage!” And then they do it. Then, (2) they say, “woah, that was SO helpful!”

Watch the video and do the exercise. The most you will lose is 25 minutes that doesn’t help you. But the upside is that, like so many of my former clients and students, this simple technique gives you the bricks to build something awesome.

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