Solutions to Common Academic Writing Obstacles

All academics must write to succeed in their chosen career. Yet, most academics experience obstacles to starting and completing writing. Addressing these obstacles is the main aim of my book Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks (second edition, 2019).

For twenty-five years, I have been asking scholarly authors, “What challenges have you experienced in becoming a writer with good writing habits?” On page 31 of the writing workbook, I list many of the most common responses, in the very words used by scholarly authors. The solutions to them became too long to keep in the workbook, however, because people had so many great solutions. So I moved those solutions online, here.

Some of the solutions are easy, some are tough, and others are tough to hear. Some may surprise you by being valid reasons not to write. They are all useful.

Motivational obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. I just can’t get started writing.
  2. I can’t sit still to write.
  3. If I have a long, productive writing day, somehow it’s harder to get started the next day, rather than easier.
  4. I will write just as soon as (fill in the blank).
  5. I wish I could write as easily as I [exercise/cook/clean/or . . .].

Emotional obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. I’m not in the right mood to write.
  2. I’m afraid of writing because my idea is very controversial or triggering.
  3. I’m afraid of writing because publication is so permanent.
  4. I feel guilty about not writing.
  5. I feel like I have to amputate significant parts of myself to write.
  6. I feel like I have to suck the life out of my work to squeeze it into the square box of academic writing.

Health obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. I’m too depressed to write.
  2. I have serious health issues; I think I may need a break from writing to deal with them.
  3. When I write, weird things happen with food.
  4. I have terrible insomnia and therefore foggy mornings, so writing is tough.
  5. I get terrible back pain when I sit at my computer writing too long.

Human obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. Why do all that writing work when my coauthors are going to be listed before me in the author byline?
  2. I really can’t move forward on this writing project because of others’ inaction.
  3. My advisor is more of an obstacle to my writing than an aid.
  4. I would love to ask someone to read and comment on my writing, but everyone seems so busy and I don’t want to bother anyone.

Distraction obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. I really am too busy to write!
  2. I get distracted from writing by web surfing, emailing, and texting.
  3. Teaching preparation takes up all my writing time.
  4. My child care responsibilities are preventing me from writing.
  5. I have to make progress on several writing projects at the same time, and I’m in a panic.
  6. I have to read just one more book before I can write.
  7. I couldn’t get to my writing site.
  8. It’s so nice outside that I don’t want to be inside writing; I need that vitamin D!
  9. My responsibilities at my paying job are taking up all my time and energy for writing.

Confidence obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. I can’t write because my idea sucks. 
  2. I’m beginning to wonder if being a professor is really the career for me and I probably won’t get a job anyway, so what’s the point of writing?
  3. I’m so far behind in writing for publication, what’s the point of trying now? I’m not smart enough to do this kind of writing.
  4. I write so slowly that I never seem to get much done. 
  5. No one’s going to read my writing anyway; why bother?

Resource obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. I’m eager to write, but I don’t have access to the material or scholarly resources.
  2. It’s so difficult to write in English!
  3. I’ve heard that editors at journals in North America and Britain automatically reject articles written by nonnative speakers—so why should I even try to write an article for them?
  4. I’m an independent scholar, and I’m afraid that once a journal sees that I’m not affiliated, they will automatically reject my article.
  5. Writing takes forever because I never got around to setting up reference-management software for my citations.

Obstinance obstacles to writing my journal article

  1. I’m sorry, but advice books about writing just don’t work for me.
  2. I know my writing habits are bad, but that’s just who I am, and I can’t/don’t want to change.
  3. Come on, the whole publishing process is rigged, so what’s the point of writing?

Other obstacles to writing my journal article (not in workbook)

  1. I need big blocks of time to write, and my schedule doesn’t allow such blocks.
  2. Everyone takes writing so seriously; am I doing it wrong if I don’t?
  3. My days seem to drift away doing other things.
  4. I get lonely writing all by myself.