Are you Making These Three Writing Mistakes?

by | Apr 25, 2019 | academic writing, mindset, publishing, time management

Are you making these three writing mistakes?

Academic womxn and nonbinary academics are a diverse and electrifying group. I truly get so much energy from interacting with you all, both in and out of my own field of study.

But the more of our clients we get to know, the more we realize that many of us have some things in common.

Some things that need to stop, right now.

Here are three common mistakes that we’ve seen womxn and nonbinary academics make, and what we can do to try to fix them for ourselves and the clients we mentor.

#1: Thinking you’re supposed to know what to do

Just like motherhood, academia doesn’t come with a handbook. Also like motherhood, we think that the act of becoming an academic magically bestows on us the knowledge of how to navigate what is an extremely complex job.

But of course, it doesn’t.

Even those of us who had great mentors may not know how to be an academic, once we find ourselves in the position of being the mentor ourselves. I had outstanding female mentors who taught me a lot about the kind of writing I had to do to get my Ph.D. But I did not learn how to write for publication during my Ph.D. I learned that by trial and (lots of) error.

Graduating from your doctoral degree also puts you in a little bit of a predicament: who do you ask questions to, now that you are no longer an advisee? I didn’t dare ask my advisors questions after I graduated because (1) they were so awesome and busy I didn’t want to “bother” them and (2) I thought I was supposed to know what to do.

#2: Thinking you’re the only one who is struggling

After years of coaching womxn and nonbinary professors, I can confidently say that you are not the only one struggling. People regularly join our programs and discover that they are not alone. Mansplaining colleagues? Reviewer #2 critiquing your summary of your own work? Interviewing for a tenure track job two weeks post-birth? Our clients have been through it all, and will happily commiserate and give you all kinds of (evidence-based!) advice inside our group programs.

The big idea is: you are not alone. Most of us are thinking about the same things: I should be writing. I wish I could stop thinking about work on the weekends. My to-do list never ends. I’m on too many committees. I feel co-author guilt.

We are all in this together, through tenure and revise-and-resubmits, rejections and graduations. You are NOT the only one who is struggling, and if we could just realize this, maybe we could get together and help each other out (like the participants in our programs do).

#3: Thinking that you are the problem when actually all these things are learnable

So guess what? There is nothing wrong with you! You are not the problem! The impenetrable ivory-tower idea of academia is the problem. The racist, ableist, patriarchy is the problem!

All the things you need to do to find time to write, to finish that unfinished article, to reduce your overwhelm and guilt, and to have the kind of academic life that you really want are learnable.

I struggled through 10 years and 3 babies I learned them (it was really motherhood that forced me to figure these things out), but I don’t think that you should have to struggle. Because you’re not supposed to know what to do, you’re not the only one who is struggling to manage this academic life, and you are not the problem.

How to write more

Want to write more, but you’re not sure how? Listen to our podcast, Academic Writing Amplified (available in your favorite podcast app).


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