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Episode #17

Five Words I Avoid When Talking About Writing

As writers, we know the words we use matter. But what about the words we don’t use? The way we frame our thoughts matters. So what are some words I avoid using as a writing coach?


In doing a little reflecting on what makes me different as a writing coach, and what my philosophy is about, I had a light bulb moment. Sometimes, what you don’t say (and why) defines your attitudes and actions as much as what you do say. So, on this episode of The Academic Woman Amplified I’m sharing 5 words that I avoid in relation to writing, and which words I choose instead. 


Word #1: Bootcamp

This word is the opposite of what I try to espouse for a writing practice and a culture of academia. It brings to mind struggle, physical endurance and even pain. I believe we need to move away from this kind of emphasis on struggle in our writing lives. 

“In the culture of academia we spend way too much time glorifying struggle, glorifying busy, glorifying overwork.”

Instead: Retreat 

This word still implies an intense experience, and a writing retreat is focused and isolated from our daily lives. But instead of struggle, it emphasizes intentionality, gentleness and calm.

Word #2: Balance

This is a tempting word, isn’t it? It sounds like something we all want. In reality, it implies that all the areas of our lives fall on two sides of an equal plane, and that it’s possible to simply bring them to equilibrium. But our lives aren’t that simplistic, and our whole, authentic selves don’t fit on a see-saw. And if you finally do reach a spot that feels “balanced”, it feels like a failure when something inevitably tips that scale. 

Instead: Management

I prefer to look at this process as management; taking the whole of our lives into consideration and making decisions grounded in our values, and what matters most right now. 

Word #3: Accountability

This word is hard to avoid, it’s used a lot in writing circles. But I find this word disempowering. It suggests that you need an outside force to make decisions for you and your writing, and I just don’t believe that. 

Instead: Community 

What we do need is community. When you are in the presence of people who share your values and ‘get’ you and your work, accountability as a taskmaster falls to the wayside. (I am still in favor of positive reinforcement for yourself–bring on the sticker charts and celebrations!)

“Community solves the accountability problem.”


Word #4: Productivity

Don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of producing more work; helping you write and publish more is my main goal. But, I am not in favor of the lock-step, one-size-fits-all, mass production that this word always makes me think of. We are not machines, we don’t do cookie cutter work, and I am not about tricks or hacks to squeeze more and more out of you.

Instead: Creation

When we write, we create. Bringing new ideas into the world is what we do. And while we want to be prolific, we also want to be innovative. The word creation is self-affirming and powerful.

Word #5: Self-Care

Now, I don’t want to get rid of this word altogether. As a matter of fact, I think taking care of ourselves is of top priority. But this particular word has been twisted to make us think of bubble baths and candles, things that are a luxury rather than a necessity. 

In reality, self-care should encompass a whole range of absolutely necessary activities that help us maintain our careers and ourselves as whole human beings. 

Instead: Self-maintenance 

Maintenance is not optional. It’s something that must be kept up on to keep functioning.  It is not selfish to take care of yourself, or to make your own career a priority. 

Work With Us in the New Year!

There are 2 ways to work with us that will deepen your community, enhance your creativity, and help you manage your life and career effectively.  

Are you pre-tenure? Ready to live academia differently (so it feels more like inspiration and less like hazing?) The Amplify: Faculty Writing Accelerator is open for enrollment! If you’re ready to invest in going up for tenure with confidence, apply now to see if this year-long program is right for you. We’ll dig in to what’s holding you back and how putting writing at the center will lead to a more focused, calm, pre-tenure experience. Fill out this short application and book your ten-minute Tenure Ten call to find out if Amplify is right for you! 

Are you post-tenure? If you’ve gotten tenure and now you’re feeling like, “Wait–it was supposed to get easier!” then we invite you to check out our 6-month post-tenure program, Elevate: Up-level Your Post-tenure Career. 

During this program you will:

  • Improve your everyday work life through better time management, outsourcing, and boundary setting.
  • Find time to finally work on your stuff by mastering the project management skills relevant to academia.
  • Significantly move a major writing project forward, such as a book or grant proposal, by dedicating time to project-planning, development, and words on the page.
  • Master your mentoring skills so that your mentoring of students and junior faculty is both effective and sustainable.
  • Create a five-year plan to up-level your career based on YOUR goals.

Sound good? This program is limited to 10 people and we start February 1. Apply for Elevate today! 


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