Confronting Writing AnxietyWriter's Web
by Lauren Cone, UR Writing Consultant

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

Having some level of anxiety associated with writing is normal, and often a sign that a writer cares about doing well. If this anxiety motivates the writer to devote thought and effort to their writing, this stress-induced attitude and mindset can have a certain positive value.

In excessive quantities, however, stress can be a hindrance; herein lies the problem. Here are some typical results of writing anxiety:

1.A writer might continually postpone working on their assignment and get a late start. Procrastination can then lead to more stress, as the writer may feel they do not have time to adequately plan and edit their writing.This procrastination adversely affects both the quality of the writing and reduces a writer's sense of control over the situation.

2. Sometimes a writer might become so nervous that you feel unable to write anything at all. This feeling is known as writer’s block. Writer's block can contribute to other habits, such as procrastination above.

3. On the other end of the spectrum, a writer 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 (nor the way to be a healthy, well-rounded college student). Thankfully, by assessing and adjusting one's approach to writing, a writercan confront both the personal and practical causes of their anxiety.

Causes for Writing Anxiety—Knowing the Enemy and Knowing Yourself

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

Writing anxiety can result from a variety of social and academic factors. A writer may worry about their grade in a class, nervous about the deadline for a paper, be pressured by their parents to excel, fear failure, be competitive by nature, be preoccupied with other issues and classes, or the professor may seem intimidating and relentless (Ryan 51-2, Sherwood 6).

Such circumstances are typical and understandable. They do, however, increase stress levels and turn paper writing into a fraut ordeal. The good news is that they do not have to dictate either a writer's state of mind or the paper they produce. Once a writer hasidentified if any of the factors above resemble their anxiety, they can then try to locate and evaluate these triggers. Recognition begins the process of reevaluation and relief.

Some tecqniques that writers can use to begin this process include:

It may help to discuss 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 one's 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:

A writer can decrease the levels of stress and anxiety that accompany writing a paper by treating it as something that remains within their control. Here are some techniques to turn the task monster back into just another assignment.

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 138 Sarah Brunet 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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Checked & proofread, fall 2018, Griffin Myers, Writing Consultant