Academic Writing Anxieties

I think you know that Michelle Dionne Thompson Coaching and Consulting is about making sure that women in academia can build sustainable, long-term careers. Writing support is the cornerstone of making this happen.

And yet, as this survey reflects, it is also the one part of academic jobs/degrees that causes no end of upset and stress.

The responses underscore the extent to which writing support is crucial and the degree to which the institutions with which we engage do not provide this.

So, I want to share the survey results with you.

I suspect there will be few surprises. And it will be heartbreaking.

Who responded to the survey?

There were 75 respondents, almost half of you from the social sciences, 1/3 from the arts and humanities, and nearly 20% in the sciences. You comprised many fields.

What are your top stressful issues?

·  I don’t know how to organize my work was the top issue with 57.3% of the responses.

·  I can’t find the time to write came in second with 53.3% of the responses. 

·  I can’t write the way I’m expected to came in next with 44% of the responses. Respondents could select multiple responses.

Also, major writing stressors included I can’t formulate an argument; I have no idea about my work’s significance; and I have nothing to say.

Specific Details about the Anxieties?

The specificity is where the heartbreak lives. Here were some of the things respondents said.

·  I’m a perfectionist and avoid writing because I judge myself first. I criticize myself out of writing. It is hard to get started and I easily get distracted. I don’t write linearly with academic writing and write in pieces, which is frustrating.

·  I am interested by many things in my research but always assume that others won’t find any of it interesting. Also I assume that someone else has already said it.

·  I feel overwhelmed sometimes with how busy my schedule is, and then when I want to write it still feels like I go blank.

·  Because I don’t find writing fulfilling, I avoid it at all costs.

·  Research and scholarship being expected as part of tenure.

·  It feels like an act of bravery to write and most days I don’t feel very brave.

How Do These Anxieties Play Out in Daily Practice?

·  84% said avoidance;

·  81.3% said procrastination;

·  77.3% said general overwhelm.

This was followed by isolation (33.3%); lack of sleep (29.3%); and asking for help (21.3%).

How Do These Manifest Specifically?

·  It makes me sad mostly. I have a decent job and I have ‘made’ it in some ways but I am always fearful I won’t get tenure.

·  I keep my imposter syndrome to myself. 😉 I also fill my work time with everything BUT writing.

·  Biggest challenge with such anxiety often is that your PI or peers are not emotionally sensitive enough to gauge this frustration.

·  The anxieties are also related to a crisis of existence – no funding, unemployed, rejection after rejection. It’s getting harder and harder to go on.

·  I have avoided turning my work into a publication and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

·  I avoid writing until the last minute and then I cram way too much into a small period of time, which doesn’t give me the time to do a proper writing process with drafts and thinking things through, so I’m more likely to create bad work.

·  I just don’t do anything, then I feel useless.

·  I dither with other things, usually teaching-related, instead of using blocks of time to make progress on my writing.

·  It really covers my quality of life. Stressed and anzious most of the time.

·  I cannot get restful sleep. I cram weeks of writing into days.

Finally, many of you couldn’t think of one question you wanted to ask a coach. But for the few of you could think of something:

·  How to feel my body.

·  Can you make the world stop spinning long enough for me to get some writing done?

·  How to kick procrastination to the curb.

·  What can I do about perfectionism and prioritize writing so I can be a more productive scholar and help advance research in my discipline?

·  How can I make writing more personally rewarding as a daily habit?

·  How to formulate an argument.

·  Am I good enough?

The results of the survey aren’t surprising to me as I’ve been coaching academics for years about their writing.

It is upsetting that there’s so little help for us as we try to do this particular part of our jobs. And I want you to know you can sidle up to me.

Here’s my offer for you – a free one.

I am going to run a webinar called Anxiousness and Academic Writing. It will be on July 19 from 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. I am going to, for free, provide one solid tool to help you with feeling anxious. You will have zero regrets about joining us. You can register here. Please pass this on to your colleagues because we cannot continue down this road.

Feel free to respond to this email if you have any questions.

I’m sending you all so much love!