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

Writing rituals are personal habits, which make no practical sense 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 you spend writing or the time of day at which you write. Those 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 for a professor to evaluate 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 your Writing Confidence:

  • Look at some of your previous papers that you consider a success. Apply writing methods that worked well on those papers to the paper you are writing. If none of these strategies seem helpful, your achievements on your old papers will give you confidence in writing the one at hand.
  • Discuss your ideas with your professor. This tactic will give you peace of mind in knowing that your thought process is heading in the right direction. Also, this conversation will likely stir additional ideas to strengthen your future argument.
  • Discuss ideas with your classmates. This technique will help you put your thoughts for a given assignment into words, which will ease getting your thoughts on paper. Moreover, such a discussion will catalyze your thinking of other ideas. With plenty of thoughts and an idea of how to convey them, you will feel better about beginning to write.
  • Bring your assignment sheet to the Writing Center. Consultants not only comment on paper drafts, but they can also ask thought provoking questions to assist you in beginning. 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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