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in 20 minutes

To generate some confidence, first have them convince themselves they know exactly what to do:

1. Find an unusual method of information capture (I like taping together flipchart sheets to make a huge blanket of paper – on which students can sit, lie, scribble and move around to read others’ writing – and big thick pens).

2. Tell them you’ve had a brain transplant and you’ve just decided this morning you want to apply to university (or apply for a new job, or whatever else is tricky for them) this year. The trouble is you don’t know how to write a personal statement/CV/proposal. You want their help. Ask them to spider diagram answers the following questions.

What’s the purpose of the personal statement/CV/proposal?

What’s in the perfect personal statement/CV/proposal?

Put on some upbeat music and get them writing. After three minutes, have them move positions, read other people’s scribblings, add their own and connect ideas together.

3. When they’ve run out of steam, invite them to write one more point each and thank them. Have a wander round looking at the mind map. Then feign confusion, and say “This seems rather straightforward, I don’t understand why everyone gets stuck”. They will then explain they have writers’ block, too many nerves, and they’re not sure how to start.

Then feign “Ah, I see! Well in that case, that’s not a big problem. We can get you unstuck right now.” Get them all to grab their favourite pen and a piece of paper.

Explain the following process will be slightly uncomfortable, but once it’s over you will be able to write/start/finish your personal statement. “Who likes the sound of that? Are you with me? Trust me? Up for it?”.

Then move on to the unblocking the sticky nonsense exercise.

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