Confronting the anxiety of academic writing: Tackling the intellectual and practical difficulties

The first article in this series, based on Rachael Cayley’s October 19, 2022 TAA webinar, “Confronting the Anxiety of Academic Writing”, covered the concerns of writing product and writing process and how they are so deeply rooted that they start to feel inevitable.

In this second article, we discuss some of the ways that Cayley suggests tackling the intellectual and practical difficulties associated with writing. To tackle the intellectual difficulties, she says, you need to reconceptualize writing: “Writing is not a simple matter of writing up something that has already been created. Prior to writing, for most of us, there’s not much there. And that creative process—the process of getting words out of our inchoate minds and on to the page—is an intensely difficult one. No matter how much underlying research, or note taking, or outlining, or thinking you may have done.”

Getting unstuck when your writing stalls out

Let’s acknowledge immediately that there are innumerable reasons why a writing project can get stalled: Maybe you took a break and lost momentum? Got irrevocably bored with the topic? Received critical feedback that you can’t get out of your mind? Therefore, we aren’t going to focus on the “why” part. Instead, regardless of why a project got cold, there are some common steps that help us get any project moving again. Today we will focus on steps addressing the underlying emotional and motivational issues. If we can clear those up, the rest will likely go smoothly.

Confronting the anxiety of academic writing: What if anxiety about academic writing were to be taken seriously?

The first step in confronting the anxiety of academic writing is to ask, “What if anxiety about academic writing were to be taken seriously, rather than ignored, treated as a punchline, or accepted as inevitable?” said Rachael Cayley, author of the forthcoming book, Thriving as a Graduate Writer: Principles, Strategies, and Habits for Effective Academic Writing, in her October 19, 2022 TAA webinar, “Confronting the Anxiety of Academic Writing”, available on demand.

“If we instead try to understand why academic writing is the site of so much anxiety, we can then find ways to improve the experience of academic writers,” she said.

Register for AcWriMo 2022 Webinar: How Academic Writing Coaches Get Unstuck

Ever wonder what a writing coach does when they get stuck in their manuscript? Join Boyd, Mazak and Wang as they describe the biggest challenges they’ve faced when writing books and what they do to move past them. They’ll describe some of the key ways that scholars get tripped up when writing and share examples from their recent experiences with their own books. They’ll also discuss the strategies they recommend to junior and senior faculty members and what happens when they take their own advice.

Advice: Do nothing

How is your schedule?

If you are like the rest of the people I know, you either:

  • Rolled your eyes,
  • Snorted,
  • Laughed,
  • Said, “Don’t ask,”
  • Had a dark cloud come over your face,
  • Or took a deep breath.

Feeling pushed to the max is the number one response I get nowadays when I ask someone about where they are with their writing and work.

9 Tips from TAA Conversation Circle discussions

The past three TAA Conversation Circle discussions were packed with tips and strategies from TAA members! Here are just 9 tips shared during these discussions:

Writing Strategies

“At the end of each day, I print out what I have drafted. And then the next day, whenever it is I ended the previous day, that’s my starting point, rather than trying to scratch my head and figure out where I was when I left off.” – Margaret Reece