The American Psychological Association (n.d.) defines writing anxiety as: Feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure when faced with a writing task. When approaching a writing task, many students may feel a sense of panic, tension, anxiety, or apprehension. These tumultuous feelings can and do occur no matter what kind of writer you are and no matter one’s skill level. Basically, these feelings are a natural reaction to a potentially stressful situation and you are not alone in feeling them!
This may be from the specific assignment, the perceived expectations of the professor, one’s perceived ability, facing the unknown, or general anxiety. The heightened levels of anxiety can interfere with the rational part of your brain (Peña, 2018). From there, a spiraling effect can happen as your brain thinks of everything that could go wrong until you are overwhelmed and blocked from the free-flow of writing.
A common reason for writing anxiety is that people often view writing as a bundle of concepts that are too abstract to clearly think through. This causes them to lose sight of the concrete steps one can take to write a paper. Everything that one reads, learns, and feels while reading or writing a paper can actually be highlighted and pointed out. Writing is concrete, words on paper, and many people need that concrete view to approach writing with a clear mind.
Being reasonable and fair: Ask: What are my expectations for myself? What are other’s expectations of me? Are these appropriate? Intimidating? Motivating?
Using realistic language: Would a less-than-perfect grade on one assignment really ruin my academic record?
Living with balance and contentment: Is my anxiety a one-time occurrence or a common situation for me? Does the pursuit of doing something perfectly keep me from participating in things I enjoy? How do my lifestyle choices affect my academics—and vice versa?
Sometimes it’s not just the writing. Mental health is the largest factor affecting students’ academic success at WOU. Whether you need support now or want to build better mental health for when times get tough, visit WOU’s Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Promotion website.
Cone, L. (2018). Potential situations caused by writing anxiety—The undesirable effects of stress. Retrieved from http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/writinganxiety.html
Peña, E.S. (17 February, 2018). College writing: How to begin writing when you have crippling anxiety. Retrieved from https://mystudentvoices.com/how-to-begin-writing-when-you-have-crippling-anxiety-840ffdbbe554