Overcoming Writing Anxiety

By Kelly VanDerlofske

Writing anxiety is very similar to writer’s block.  It stops you from writing to the best of your ability.  It could be a good thing, though, because it shows that you actually care about what you’re doing and you care about writing a great paper.  At times, we may feel that we won’t be able to write a paper because we are getting these feelings, but there is no reason to panic. There are many ways to deal with feelings of anxiety while writing a paper. In order to decide on the best plan of action for overcoming this anxiety, we need to think about what may be causing it:

-Procrastinating until the deadline.

-Writing for a critical audience.

-Not understanding the topic/assignment you are given.

-Focusing on criticism you’ve received on previous papers.

-Feeling overwhelmed by the amount you have to write.

    Now that you’ve been able to think about which of these factors may be overwhelming you, we can decide how best to tackle your stress. Here are a few ways to manage your stress:

Time Management. Make sure you set aside ample time to get your paper done.  Waiting until the last minute to start writing is what will drive your anxiety. Set a few hours aside each or every other day to write your paper well before the deadline. This could look like making an outline on the day you get the assignment, writing for an hour or so a day until you are a week away from the due date, and taking a week to proofread and make revisions. This will give you plenty of time to finish without having to rush.

Prove Yourself Right.  You are in charge of your own paper and the strength of your argument.  When writing a paper, you should be familiar with the topic given (i.e.: research your topic thoroughly!). If you are familiar with what you are talking about, the ideas will flow and this will allow you to create a well written paper. Make sure each claim you make has strong evidence to support it. This is how you convince your critical audience that your argument is solid.

Ask for Help.  Do not be afraid to ask your professor for help on the subject at hand.  If anything, your professor will be happy that you care enough about your work to come to him/her for help because this show that you are a dedicated student. If your professor’s comments are unclear, know that it is okay to ask him/her to clarify or rephrase their explanation. Other sources that may be valuable to you are your school’s librarians, your academic adviser, or simply researching your topic on your own.

 Feedback Isn’t a Bad Thing.  Feedback is often confused with criticism and may be taken the wrong way.  The purpose of receiving feedback is not to make you discouraged; it is to show you where you can improve. Before you get defensive over professor or peer comments, consider which ones may help you and which ones wont. Be honest with yourself during this process and incorporate what you find useful. Using this strategy, try applying the feedback to your other assignments as well.

Take a Break.  You do not have to write your entire paper in one sitting. Take a break and move around, or start working on your other subjects. Stepping away will take your mind away from the anxiety you were having about the paper, so when you go back to write you will have new and fresh ideas. The amount of work on your plate will also feel more manageable by practicing some of those time management skills.

    There is no reason to completely lose motivation when you are feeling writing anxiety.  Sometimes all it takes is a deep breath.  As students, we often don’t realize that there are many people at our school who are willing to help us out. There are so many sources we can use to help make the paper we are writing the best it could be, but it is up to us to take advantage of that.

Works Cited

The Writing Center at UNC Chapel Hill. 2010-2014. Writing Anxiety. Retrieved from writingcenter.unc.edu

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