Writer's WebConfronting Writing Anxiety
by Lauren Cone

Potential Situations Caused by Writing Anxiety—The Undesirable Results of Stress

Having some level of anxiety associated with writing is often a sign that you care about doing well. If this anxiety motivates you to devote thought and effort to your writing, your stress-induced attitude and mindset have a certain positive value.

In excessive quantities, however, stress can be a hindrance; herein lies the problem. If you suffer from writing anxiety, there are three typical ways in which you might act:

1. You might continually postpone working on your assignment and get a late start. If you procrastinate, you may not have enough time to think about and compose what you want to write. This procrastination adversely affects both the quality of your writing and your sense of control over the situation.

2. Sometimes you might become so nervous that you feel unable to write anything at all. This feeling is known as writer’s block, and it is akin to self-sabotage.

3. On the other end of the spectrum, you might devote too much time to worrying about how to make your paper perfect. In addition to causing you unnecessary stress, this approach can take away time from other important activities or assignments (Ryan 43).

None of these is the ideal way to write a paper you feel good about (nor the way to be a healthy, well-rounded college student). Thankfully, by assessing and adjusting your approach to writing, you can confront both the personal and practical causes of your anxiety.

Causes for Writing Anxiety—Knowing the Enemy and Knowing Yourself

First, it helps to identify the cause(s) of your anxiety. If you can locate the factors that affect your attitude about writing, you can take steps to confront them and put your situation in perspective.

Writing anxiety can result from a variety of social and academic factors. You may worry about your grade in a class, the deadline for a paper may be encroaching upon you, your parents may be pressuring you to excel, you may fear failure, you may be competitive by nature, you may be preoccupied with college life and social issues, or your professor may seem intimidating and relentless (Ryan 51-2, Sherwood 6).

Such circumstances are usual and understandable. They do, however, increase stress levels and become cumbersome distractions. The good news is that they do not have to dictate your state of mind or the paper you produce. If you suspect the source of your anxiety resembles one or more of the factors discussed above, try to locate and evaluate these triggers. Attempt to understand why certain aspects of attitude or lifestyle cause you anxiety; recognition begins the process of reevaluation and relief.

Begin by asking yourself questions that relate to:

It may help to discuss your answers with a trusted friend, family member, professor, or counselor.

Where to Go from Here—Practical Steps to Unlock the Writer in You

Understanding the assignment well is a basic but significant part of feeling confident in your ability to begin writing.

Brainstorming and organizing your ideas can be just as important as the writing of your actual paper. Some helpful resources include:

You can decrease the levels of stress and anxiety that accompany writing a paper by treating it as something that remains within your control.

Keep in mind that the University of Richmond offers a great, free resource: Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) . Academic concerns and stress are two of the biggest reasons why students meet with counselors. If you would like to make an appointment, visit the CAPS office at 201 Richmond Hall.


Ryan, Leigh. The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002. Print.
Sherwood, Steve. “Humor and the Serious Tutor.” Writing Center Journal 13.2 (1993): 3-12. Print.


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