Building Writing ConfidenceWriter's Web
G.M. Smith, UR Writing Fellow
(printable version here)

Writing rituals are personal habits, which make no practical sense with regards to writing, that people routinely perform when they are faced with a writing task. These habits are typically related to the time one writes, the environment in which one writes, and/or one's behavior while writing.

Writing rituals based on time dictate either how long of a time period the author spends writing or the time of day at which they write. Those writing rituals related to environment are defined by a particular location (i.e. bedroom, park, beach, tree house) in a certain condition (i.e. clean, messy, secluded, populated, noisy, quiet). Behavior-based writing rituals are repeated actions performed (without direct attention) either before or while writing, which often are idiosyncratic or monotonous (i.e. sitting, smoking, sipping a drink, vacuuming, pencil sharpening)

Benefits of Writing Rituals:

  • Decrease Stress: The nature of writing a paper which a professor will be evaluating produces significant stress, which can lead to procrastination. Developing writing rituals allows people to place themselves in a familiar atmosphere each time they write. This familiarity creates a writing "comfort zone" and thus gives people self-confidence.
  • Increase Power: Because professors determine writing assignments and deadlines, writers usually feel that someone else controls them. By developing writing rituals, however, writers can govern their writing situations in order to regain a sense of control.
  • Ease the writing process: Writer's block is a common problem that writers experience. Writers can lessen the horrors of writer's block with writing rituals, which make beginning easier.

Tips for Improving Writing Confidence:

  • Look at some previous papers that were successes. Apply writing methods that worked well on those earlier papers to the paper being written. If none of these aforementioned strategies seem helpful, achievements on old papers will give the writer confidence in writing the one at hand.
  • Discuss ideas with the professor. This tactic will give the writer peace of mind in knowing that their thought process is heading in the right direction. Also, this conversation will likely provoke additional ideas to strengthen future arguments.
  • Discuss ideas with classmates. This technique will help the writer put their thoughts for a given assignment into words, which will ease getting their thoughts on paper. As writing is chiefly meant to convey an idea to others, oftentimes articulating an idea out loud to a friend can help a writer express and organize their own thoughts. Moreover, such a discussion can catalyze thinking of other ideas. With plenty of thoughts and an idea of how to convey them, the writer will feel better about beginning to write
  • Bring the assignment sheet to the Writing Center. Consultants can not only comment on paper drafts, but they can also ask thought-provoking questions to assist the writer in beginning to develop the paper. Make an appointment here.


O'Shaughnessy, Kathleen, Connie McDonald, Harriet Maher and Ann Doubie. "Who, What, When, and Where of Writing Rituals." The Quarterly of The National Writing Project (2002): 24.4. Web. 18 March 2004. <>.

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Checked & proofread, summer 2018, Griffin Myers, Writing Consultant