How to overcome academic writing phobia?

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Midshipman
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25 Jun 2022, 11:02 am

Last year I took leave from my university because I could not complete written work. The difficulty was long-standing but had worsened, and, as my academic results were otherwise very good, I was labelled a perfectionist. (This was before my ASD, ADHD diagnosis.) Since then, I have used brain apps and posted comments on Future Learn and other MOOC arts courses to improve my skills in reading comprehension, summarising and structuring written assignments (no longer than 250-500 words). My success encouraged me. However, when I began more demanding course-specific work, e.g. literature commentary or an essay, I became very fearful and uncertain about whether my approach was suitable (I have the module info.) It is now not a question of study skills but a phobia of a specific situation. Does anyone know of anything to get around this? Would extra tutoring in the subject help? I might be able to afford this rather than a psychologist.



Vasco
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01 Jul 2022, 5:51 am

Midshipman wrote:
Last year I took leave from my university because I could not complete written work. The difficulty was long-standing but had worsened, and, as my academic results were otherwise very good, I was labelled a perfectionist. (This was before my ASD, ADHD diagnosis.) Since then, I have used brain apps and posted comments on Future Learn and other MOOC arts courses to improve my skills in reading comprehension, summarising and structuring written assignments (no longer than 250-500 words). My success encouraged me. However, when I began more demanding course-specific work, e.g. literature commentary or an essay, I became very fearful and uncertain about whether my approach was suitable (I have the module info.) It is now not a question of study skills but a phobia of a specific situation. Does anyone know of anything to get around this? Would extra tutoring in the subject help? I might be able to afford this rather than a psychologist.


I also terribly suffer from writing phobia.
I usually write 1k word essays a few hours before the assignment is due.
Frequently, I turn in assignments late.
It's strange how I have writing phobia even though I lived in the US for most of my life and attended school here since 2nd grade. Perhaps I would not be like this if my parents read me bedtime stories. Perhaps I would not be like this if I read books everyday and improved my literacy.

The best way to overcome phobia is to just write.
If writing is hard, then talking alone into a recording may help.
Talking has higher WPM than that of typing.



Midshipman
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01 Jul 2022, 10:07 am

Yes. I agree that the best way out of the impasse is to write, but my pen often hovers over the page as I stress about the 'right' word or expression to communicate my ideas. I came across the following website of a Canadian university that offers suggestions. It looks promising: https://libguides.royalroads.ca/writingprocess. I have just started to keep a journal to become more aware of why I become stuck. For example, I often try to edit material before I have even written it down! I now plough on regardless of how clunky it sounds. Once I have something down on paper, only then can I revise it.



Minervx_2
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10 Sep 2022, 1:41 pm

By understanding it's formulaic. It's not your goal to write a timeless classic or a perfect essay. It's just to check the boxes.

Many professors just check for basic things.
Are the first 1-2 sentences catchy?
Is there a clearly defined thesis in the first paragraph?
Does the final paragraph summarize the essay well enough?
Do you cite sources? (Many professors don't even check the sources, just that you cite them, and that they're from reputable sources)



SocOfAutism
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03 Nov 2022, 8:46 am

If you have ADHD, it is supposedly your actual brain makeup that requires you to do important work last minute like that. The "Oh no, I'm not gonna make it!" adrenaline gives your brain what it needs to get up to the normal level of motivation that a NT brain person has. Some medications for ADHD, if taken by a person with ADHD, will have the same effect without having to wait for the natural adrenaline situation. If this is the case, I would honestly stop beating yourself up about it, and schedule yourself to do the paper at the last minute. Get yourself some coffee and snacks just expect to be up the night before.

However, this may be entirely different if it is an autism problem. You may not just be a perfectionist, you may be uninterested in the subject matter. In that case, I recommend taking whatever you are supposed to be writing about and making it about your special interest. If you are interested in Star Trek, but you are supposed to be writing about Greek Mythology, for example, I recommend weaving Star Trek into your paper. Explain how a particular Star Trek episode took it's plot from whatever you are supposed to be writing about and lay out the plots of both at the same time. The professor or teacher, who has to read countless boring papers, will likely be distracted by your interesting paper and give you bonus points for your ingenuity.

If it's math, you can do the same thing. Say your interest area is in trains. Make every math problem about train components. If you like to draw, draw things out. Dominate the work and make it about what you like.



blazingstar
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04 Nov 2022, 7:02 pm

I used to get stuck with writing the first sentence.

So I started writing somewhere in the second paragraph. When it was done, going back and writing the introduction was easy.

Now I use a speech to text program when I get stuck on my writing. I will talk as fluently as possible and not worry too much about order. That comes when I edit in text.


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05 Nov 2022, 8:11 am

When I was in college, I started to wonder if I had a phobia of writing. This is the first time I've heard anyone else mention such a thing.

The other comments have already mentioned things that helped me, like starting in the second paragraph and getting some coaching (online or in person) about the writing process and the formulas professors might want to see. Even with that, though, I would feel sick, with a terror and paralysis about the thought of writing an assignment. What really broke through that for me was working with a timer and using rewards systems.

Timer: Ordinarily, one might break down a writing assignment into smaller, discrete tasks based on the steps of writing. That was not helpful for motivating me, because even a small step was overwhelming and could potentially take me a long time. Instead, I started using a timer. Then it had a definite end, when the timer went off. I only did very short amounts of time, making myself face the dreaded assignment for just the little bit that seemed manageable. Depending on how afraid I was, it could be really extremely short, especially for getting started on a big scary new project. But if I really honestly tried during that timed amount, and did anything towards the project at all, that counted as accomplishing a step. It was so helpful to have those little "wins," and made the work approachable.

Rewards: I would alternate a timed bit of work with a timed reward, like playing a video game or watching a few minutes of a show or just being free to do whatever for an amount of time. Sometimes I would create spreadsheets and fill in my accomplishments in chunks of time worked so I could watch them grow. I made myself a sticker reward chart once or twice. In the beginning stages of a project, the amount of time writing would be smaller than the amount of time with the break or the reward, but I tried to quickly work up to equal amounts of time for each. If I persevered, I would often reach a point where I'd even want to just keep writing because I'd broken through the mental roadblocks and found a groove, and I might just finish the whole thing without needing to stop again.

For the armchair psychologists here: I'd welcome any thoughts about whether this sounds like ADHD or autism or something else. I have no diagnosis, and was considered "gifted," with precocious academic skills as a little kid and high academic achievement all through college, yet I had major struggles with aspects of getting the work done, such as this very big mental issue with writing that affected every aspect of my life at the time.

Editing to add: For many parts of college, I functioned well by waiting until right before the deadline and then going in a sort of "hyperfocus" mode (my own word I came up with for what my brain did before I ever heard that word used by others). In particular, I was an expert at cramming for exams. I liked the thrill of it and the sense of accomplishment of pulling a good grade out of a seemingly desperate situation. With writing, however, being up against a deadline stopped working as sufficient motivation to overcome the dread I had of it, and I had to develop this other way.


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