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3 Support strategies for your writing journey

When you think about your emotions as they relate to your writing, what is your first thought? Does your response gravitate to positive emotions of joy or happiness? Or does it immediately lean toward negative ones like stress and frustration?

Erin McTigue shares from her coaching perspective that “emotions are very important in the work we do because it can help gain awareness about why certain projects are being avoided – why certain things are so hard.” Negative emotions, especially fear, can shut down academic writers and cause great stress. Positive emotions, however, can propel and inspire our work when we nurture them. Partnered with Kristen Cvancara, McTigue suggested an importance of leaning into our emotions as support strategies for our academic writing lives.

Below are three strategies they shared to overcome emotional obstacles so that you can be more productive with your writing and sharpen your focus.

Writing as a metaphor

If you are struggling with your writing project, McTigue suggests you ask yourself, “What is a metaphor that describes your writing project or your relationship to your writing right now?”

She shared these as possible examples to which you may relate:

Boat Metaphor

“My writing project feels like a boat, but it is not a boat on water, it is a boat that I am dragging across the land. It is not going well it is very arduous. I want to have some smooth sailing.”


“My writing feels like a merry-go-round at like a child’s playground that sometimes it feels like I’m making really good progress, but I feel like I’m going in circles, and I keep ending back where I started. I can’t make a decision and I’m not going forward. I’m going in circles. It’s not even a spiral.”

treadmill Metaphor

“It is a treadmill that is too high and going too fast.”

As you can see, many of the metaphors we might assign to our writing projects are negatively charged. McTigue suggests reframing your project with a positive metaphor representing how you want the project to be, even if it doesn’t “reflect reality” at the time.

The client with the treadmill metaphor offered this in response to reframing the project in a positive way.

Garden Metaphor

“I wish that my book was a garden,” she said. “That would be a place I want to be. I would plant my ideas.” She would trust that the garden would grow. She would be nurturing it not fighting it. Instead of feeling like she was fighting against this treadmill – although planting and nurturing a garden would still feel as hard work as a treadmill is – it would be peaceful.

Rating scale

In the rating scale strategy, you will need to define a scale (i.e. 1 to 10) and then define the experience that would be associated with those markers on the scale. What does a 1 look or feel like compared to a 10? With the scale in place, you can begin to evaluate your current writing project using the three-step approach below.

Step 1: Think of a current project and assess

  • Place the current project on the scale
  • Consider what it feels like to work at that level

Step 2: Decide on your rating goal

  • Consider where you would like the project to be
  • Imagine what that rating would look or feel like

Step 3: Determine what you could do to move from your current rating to the desired one

  • What is a specific action step that could help?
  • And what else?
  • And what else?
  • And what else?
  • Which one is the most compelling?
  • Which one would you want to work on this week?

Strike a pose

This third support strategy is a kinesthetic representation of your emotions as they relate to your writing project. It also involves three steps, as follows.

Step 1: Represent the current state of the project with your body. Some possibilities include:

  • Pushing or pulling
  • Digging through piles
  • Running or paralyzed in fear
  • Climbing or falling
  • And more

Step 2: Consider how that representation feels.

  • How do you feel in this motion or posture?
  • What emotions are you feeling?
  • Where in your body are you feeling emotion or warmth or tension?

Step 3: Move into a new position.

  • Identify a posture or motion that you would like to represent the project.
  • Consider how that motion or posture feels.
  • Ask yourself, “How does my body feel now?”
  • Determine what you can do this week to move the position of your project to a similar state.

These strategies were presented as part of the 2021 TAA Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference session, “Support Strategies for Your Writing Journey” presented by Erin McTigue and Kristen Cvancara.

Eric Schmieder

Eric Schmieder is the Membership Marketing Manager for TAA. He has taught computer technology concepts to curriculum, continuing education, and corporate training students since 2001. A lifelong learner, teacher, and textbook author, Eric seeks to use technology in ways that improve results in his daily processes and in the lives of those he serves. His latest textbook, Web, Database, and Programming: A foundational approach to data-driven application development using HTML, CSS, JavaScript, jQuery, MySQL, and PHP, First Edition, is available now through Sentia Publishing.