Fear of Writing: Even Expert Essay Writers Have It and Are Ready to Talk about It

essay writing fear

Essay anxiety and fear of writing essays is widespread and it affects students of all ages. Our experts Nicolas Evans and Jaime Clark are going to share their insights into the topic. While both of them are professional writers, they too have felt their fair share of anxiety. They’re here to reveal some tricks of the trade that can help you write in peace.

student's writing anxiety

Q: Have you ever faced fear and anxiety before writing an essay? What was it like for you?

Nicholas: Of course! I had a teacher that would load us up with literature analyses homework. It was painful! Just so boring. You know that song by the Ramones “I wanna be sedated”? Yeah, a bit like that. I felt like I was missing out on life. Spending hours and hours sitting in one spot seemed like Chinese water torture. Seemed like my life force was gradually being sucked out of me. I mean, I didn’t know that writing would pay off and that today I would be giving advice for a “how to cope with stress essay.” Anyway, at that time I wanted to live in the here and now, and interpreting the actions of unreal characters felt like the antithesis of that!

Jaime: Oh yes, I can agree. And in my case, the song that comes to mind would be Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall. You know, “Hey, teachers, leave those kids alone.” It seemed strange to me that we had to waste our youth on all this pointless homework.

That said, in my case, most of the writing anxiety came from failing to sound good with my writing. 

While I think you were more unhappy about having to analyze fiction which was boring for you, I was more unhappy about feeling like I was incapable of doing it well. I never felt like I had enough time to properly delve into the material. I was always running out of time and feeling like I wasn’t examining the topics thoroughly enough to speak about them with confidence. Our deadlines for writing assignments were always too short. At times, overcoming anxiety seemed impossible. I would imagine reading my paper in front of class and just completely missing the point of whatever I was supposed to have written about. Eventually, though you have to learn how to overcome anxiety.

Nicholas: Oh, by the way! One of our teachers would embarrass us every time we repeated the same information after someone else. I think that gave us all a little fear and anxiety too!

Jaime: Yes, I agree! That had to have been one of my core fears – sounding like I was just copying someone else’s thoughts.

Nicholas: But you’re not to blame if the assignment is too specific or obvious! I can’t write essays differently from others when the topic is super narrow in scope!

Jaime: And you’re a student with a load of other homework to do at the same time. So you’re probably not going to come up with some sort of ground-breaking thoughts. So yes, the fear of writing can be just awful!

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Q: Speaking about writing papers in general, what are the main reasons for anxiety?

Nicholas: Oh, a big part of it is procrastination. You start procrastinating because you’re a little stressed, but the more you do it, the more stressed you get, and in turn, the more you want to procrastinate. 

Social media can be a huge distraction

Also, with social media, you can get used to sort of writing these compact posts, tweets, and so on. So then switching to academic writing can maybe be a little disorienting. Of course, not for everyone. Also, some students just naturally love writing and are excellent at it. Though, they’re probably not the audience for this article. Anyway, in my case, a lot of my procrastination, and thus the anxiety and fear associated with writing, came from an addiction to video games.

Jaime: Used to be my case, ha-ha. I would stay up all night playing video games and then in the morning, I would be this stressed student writing essay assignments. But when I get started on a really good video game I can just absolutely lose track of time. I think I’m not alone. Especially when you’re into intense games like Dota. It’s not easy to force yourself to stop. Anyway, thank God I’m an experienced writer now and I get paid for it. So I can play computer games in my free time as a reward!

Nicholas: I think you’ve actually just mentioned another meaningful factor. A sufficient reward for doing something difficult can be really motivating for students. I really like this idea. 

If you’re anxiety writing and stressing over a poor grade, proper motivation can help you get through it. 

For example, educators could choose the best essays after they’re all been graded. That way students who did a good job could feel acknowledged for their writing talent and maybe the ones that didn’t do as well will feel motivated to try harder. I’ve been thinking about how to overcome fear of writing a lot and I have to say, I think competition as well as positive reinforcement have got to be some of the best ways. Like, when I read my essay aloud in front of the class because it’s acknowledged as something really good, it’s going to be a good feeling for me. 

Jaime: Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. But still, students can’t tell their teachers to give them rewards. So students have to figure out ways to reward themselves when they do a good job. There’s also the matter of overcoming low self-esteem or insecurities about writing. Research has proven that the fear of writing papers is, ironically, itself an obstacle to good writing. 

Controlling essay anxiety and overcoming fear essay syndromes can go a really long way toward writing good essays. 

I mean, I can’t write an essay at all, let alone a good essay, without some kind of fear management. There are all sorts of techniques for writing good essays, but perhaps one of the most helpful things you can do for yourself is to learn how to overcome your fear and stop procrastinating.

Q: So what are some psychological tips to stop experiencing fear of essay writing, then?

Nicholas: I’m a music lover. I play electric guitar. For me – background music is key! Some people say music distracts them, so they turn it off. But in my case, it’s the reverse. Having writing panic attacks? Try music. Not everyone is going to be into writing with rock music in the background like me, but there are all kinds of music that you can use, some, especially for concentration. I’d say that music flows into your mind and helps it to brush away unimportant thoughts. Like you might try something that calms you down or makes you feel relaxed. 

A lot of people find classical music to be good for overcoming writing anxiety. But overcoming fears and anxiety while listening to rock is my thing.

Jaime: Absolutely agree – music can make that essay writing phobia fade away. Neil Gaiman listens to David Bowie while working. The music in the background helps ensure that the writing process won’t be scary. Anne Rice listens to Bon Jovi. Stephen King’s got an entire radio station! Isolating myself in silence would only depress and demotivate me.

Nicholas: But does writing really have to be done when you’re all alone? A lot of people go to cafes when they work remotely. And so do a lot of today’s students. I understand that others’ voices and lots of movements around can seem distracting. But people love cafes for their cozy atmospheres. If you’re sitting in a charming Bohemian space, it can feel sort of romantic and inspiring. Or maybe you’re sitting in some sleek, modern space and think, “If I study well, I’ll be able to earn enough money to afford a fancy lifestyle.” Whatever works. But your environment can definitely make a difference.

Jaime: How about using a basic writing scheme? You don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. 

Most essays can follow a basic structure. 

You have some thesis stated in your introduction, then the body of your essay, then the conclusion. The conclusion restates the thesis. The body paragraphs explore the thesis. That’s it! Whatever the topic is, pretty much anything can fit this model. You can simply refer to this scheme whenever a topic seems scary or complex.

Nicholas: And I can take it a step further. You can make an outline using this scheme before you write. A student could even try drafting a couple of outlines and figuring out which one they’d like to flesh out into an essay. They can compare and evaluate them to find the one that sounds the best. And if they’re not sure, they could have a friend check out their outlines and get some feedback that way. If you have another set of eyes telling you that what you’re doing is okay, that can really reduce your paper writing anxiety. Hearing what they say, getting their reaction, can help you to direct your thoughts.

essay writing anxiety

Jaime: It’s a simple enough thing, but scheduling your time can help a lot too. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain’s probably not going to be as sharp, you’re not going to write as well, and you’re not going to know how to finish an essay with those perfect concluding remarks. 

To reduce your anxiety, allot some time in your schedule for writing. If you want to feel calm and relaxed, better not to put off your essay until the last minute. 

Writing in a rush and constantly feeling this anxiety can destroy your motivation to also write in the future. Also, there are just general stresses that could be happening in your life that you might want to deal with. That’s almost another topic. I feel like I could write a “causes of stress essay” pretty easily!

Nicholas: Couldn’t be more true! To eliminate the phobia of writing, we want to just try and be healthy. Physically and mentally. We definitely can’t avoid the fear of writing phobia when we do everything in our power to exacerbate it! But overcoming paralyzing fear, be it related to writing or almost anything else, is absolutely possible when we are mindful of the problem and take the time to address it!

Q: What are the most interesting personal experiences with taming writing anxiety that you can describe?

Jaime: Personally, I can’t write essays well without actually finding some inspiration in the topic. I’ve got to be interested in what I’m writing about. As I’ve said, for me, boring essays are anxiety essays. I guess I love to show off my poetic talents ha-ha. When we’re talking about school writing, the objective is just to complete the assignment. 

Just follow the guidelines and that’s all that’s expected of you. 

But sometimes I wouldn’t exactly follow the guidelines because what I was meant to write wasn’t as interesting for me as what I wanted to write. Maybe that’s an anxiety fear for me. A boring topic! Not usually, but sometimes my attempts to be maximally original could cost me good grades. But oh well.

Nicholas: Wow! So you’re saying every time you were getting a boring essay from your teacher you were facing anxiety

Jaime: Exactly. But that said, sometimes you can be sort of clever and find an interesting angle on an otherwise boring essay topic. Generally, if you can find a way to actually kind of enjoy what you’re writing, I think you can consider this a decent way to cope with anxiety.

Nicholas: Totally! If you’re feeling fear and anxiety because you don’t like the task, one way of overcoming fear and anxiety is to find a way to sort of bend the task to something that you like, but not so much that you’re not following the guidelines anymore. Actually, I think we’ve given people some nice tips to overcome fear and anxiety here. You know, I’m participating in a writing contest right now, and I’m using a lot of the tips that we’ve talked about – I’m writing about something interesting for me, in my apartment – which is quite comfortable for me, according to a schedule, and I tend to play music when I’m doing it.

Jaime: Oh! That’s great! How’s it going?

Nicholas: It’s going really great. My creative juices have really been flowing and I actually enjoy the process. I think, my ultimate antidote for fighting writing phobia, fear, anxiety, or however you want to refer to it – is to be creative and write what I enjoy. When I can be myself, I feel a lot more confident about my work.

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Steven Bloom
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Steven is an IT student who constantly seeks new opportunities for self-development. He is also fond of popular culture and entertainment. Lately, Steven has started writing about the challenges he faces as a student. He finds it helpful to brainstorm when difficult tasks arise.