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GUEST POST: 5 Energy traps that sabotage academic authors: Which one is yours?

Here we are on the uphill swing of the roller coaster again at the beginning of the academic year. While there can be excitement about new students and classes and seeing colleagues and friends again, you may also be feeling frustration about not getting enough writing and research done this summer.

Before that roller coaster takes you tumbling down, let’s pause and consider some of the energy traps that can sabotage academic authors who work very hard to serve their universities, communities, and students – while also making time for research and writing. As you read through them, ask yourself which one is your personal saboteur.

1. Sacrifice self-care.

No time for yoga? How about that haircut you’ve been meaning to get? Judgmental of those who get pedicures? When is the last time you had a leisurely bath?

Whatever your self-care routine is, it’s important. Many academic authors feel they have to sacrifice taking care of their bodies while they amp up the mind power. Not so. Exercise, rest, and taking care of basic necessities in a mindful way – these will actually make you feel better, and when you feel better, you work better.

2. Betray friends and family.

Told your friend you’d have lunch with her but cancelled? Promised your daughter you’d see her game but then the meeting ran late? Starting to see the eyes of your partner glaze over when you talk about your day?

Like self-care, the people who love us create our most important duties. Yes, the carpool is a duty. So is making dinner. Sometimes so is socializing. But fulfilling these duties is our most important “service obligation.” And paying attention to those who love us is the best way to reduce stress and guilt, both of which can distract us from writing with clarity. Also, staking out your personal boundaries with your colleagues and students will model for them what it really means to live a balanced life.

3. Make enemies.

Your chairperson is the devil? The dean is a witch? And don’t even ask you about the university-wide committee you served on last year!

When we make enemies out of the very people who can help us and create the conditions for our careers to grow, we are literally shooting ourselves in our own feet. If you’re uncomfortable with conflict, get help. You can be trained to deal with differences in the workplace in same way you were trained in your field. No one is really an enemy. It all depends on how you see others. And how you see others will boomerang back into how you see yourself. Besides, bad mouthing others is probably the world’s greatest energy trap.

4. “Should” all over yourself.

Look at your to-do list. How many items are “should?” When we do only things because we think we should, we are locating the source of our authority externally, in what others  — power structures like universities and cultures, as well as other people — are telling us is good.

This keeps us in the one-down role of the victim and we can unwittingly re-create the conditions for our own oppression. Stop shoulding all over yourself. Take five minutes to journal about what you really want. No editing. No crossing out. Write from a place of pure desire and feel yourself moving into your own power.

5. Lose touch with why you fell in love.

When was the last time you felt in love with the academy? With your job? With your research? With your life?

You entered the profession because you loved it. Whether it was the intricacy of an eco-system or a rhyme scheme, it lit you up.

Go back to that. How? Start with a little self-care. Or hire a coach.

Or reach out to others.

Leave a comment below about which of these energy traps you most often find yourself stuck in. And I’d love to hear what’s on your “desire to-do” list for getting unstuck and getting your mojo and energy back!

Cassie Premo SteeleCassie Premo Steele, Ph.D., is the author of 13 books of scholarship, poetry, fiction and non-fiction, most recently, Earth Joy Writing. She works as a writing coach to academic women from around the world. Her website is

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the Text and Academic Authors Association. Read more about TAA guest posts here.