How to Be Original, Part III: ‘What keeps you from your academic writing? Fear.’

I’ve been wondering lately about what stops us from writing when writing is what we need to do. There are loads of tips on the internet for getting writing done. Do a quick search for ‘writing tips’ on twitter, and you will find them. Most of them suggest at least the following:

1. Write.

2. Write about what you know.

3. Commit. Write at the same time in the same place every day.

4. Don’t edit while you write.

5. Don’t think about marketing your text until you’re finished.*

These are generally good tips, but they mainly address procrastination. And I’m not so sure the refusal to write is all down to procrastination. I think, particularly if you’re writing an academic text, there is another reason why you’re not writing: fear. Not just simple fear, but complex fear.

There is:

1. Cold, hard fear of failure. The ‘publish or perish’ mentality is built into academia early on and it affects everyone – even you undergraduates.

2. Fear of telling the truth. As you get into your research, you will become an expert amongst a very small group of experts. You will inevitably contradict them, upset them and have to defend yourself. This is no easy task as most of them have been at this game longer than you have.

3. Fear of finishing. This is particularly the case for Ph.D. students. In the last 4 months of writing your thesis/dissertation, you will come to know a new type of anxiety. You will wonder what will happen to you once you no longer have to get up and write your thesis any longer. You will wonder about your future. You will question your identity – who are you if you’re not a Ph.D. student?

So what can you do? I suggest you start by addressing the fear of telling the truth. Disagree with people early and tell them so. Go to conferences and raise objections to papers. Publish about your disagreements. Learn to defend yourself. This will help you to realise that although academia is incredibly competitive, it is also cooperative: when you contradict someone, the both of you learn to think more deeply and thus more accurately about the subject at hand.

I think that once you can get a handle on telling the truth, you will feel stronger, braver and better able to navigate the fear of failure and the fear of post-Ph.D. life.

Hope this was helpful! Let me know what you think.

Remember, if you want high-quality editing and proofreading services or if you need someone to talk to about how to write your dissertation or thesis, check us out at:



*I took these from Indie Author News, for the full list, go here:

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