If you’ve clicked on this blog thinking it will lead you to the silver bullet for relieving essay writing anxiety then you may be a little disappointed. What I can offer you is some advice on what generally works for most people, and has worked for me on many occasions, in school, university (when I bothered), and in the workplace.
Clarity and focus – sometimes half the battle is won when you do a few simple things before actually sitting down to write your essay. If you’re going to sit down in front of your blank computer screen unprepared and with no idea what your fingers are going to type out, you’re on the right track to increasing your levels of anxiety. I suggest a few things, first get some real clarity on what exactly you are writing about or what the assignment is. Many times educators are stuck grading papers that don’t directly respond to the question or stimulus given. A teacher or professor is less likely to get annoyed at you for asking a gabillion questions at the get-go so you understand better, rather than be stuck grading something which clearly is off track. .
Brainstorm out loud – Okay, when I say brainstorm out loud I don’t mean just sit there saying out loud what you’re scribbling down on a brainstorming web. I mean literally taking those ideas that you’ve scribbled out and discussing them your classmates, friends, or even your parents. Bouncing ideas and thoughts of someone else helps to get your creative juices going and can inspire you to get down to writing what you’ve just discussed. You’ll also see better where things connect, or where ideas may not necessarily have the logical flow that you thought they may. Hopefully, by the end of fruitful discussions, you might even have a good outline in mind for your assignment (I’d jot that down ASAP before you forget!).
Get started – people who suffer from that writing anxiety usually find it difficult to get started. But it’s a weird Catch-22 situation: “I have writing anxiety but in order to get over it you need me to write?”. What sense is there in that? Well, hold up. Sometimes, it is better to just vomit something on to a page in order to get it out, and inertia of writing out of the way. Then you can backtrack and edit it your ideas and thoughts. But unless they are out there in the real world and not just your mind there’s not much you can do to help them. If getting started is a real challenge, try using writing help tools like
Practising – We’ve all heard the saying that practice makes perfect. But I’ve heard another version which I think makes more sense: practice makes permanent. I feel it more aptly describes the art of practice. If you dislike writing or it causes you anxiety and you do nothing about it and you face the same feelings every single time you have a written assignment due, you’re almost “practising writing anxiety” which unfortunately may then become a permanent reaction to writing. Crazy thought, why don’t you try practising writing – not when an assignment is due but whenever you get the chance. The more often you write, the more you practice that writing muscle, the stronger it will get and then ideas and the words flow more freely (trust me on this one, I’ve just written 7 blog pieces in one week, when usually I write maybe one every month or two! And, yes I plan to write more regularly now to strengthen this muscle).
Read, read, read – did I say it enough times? Seriously, just read. There was a period in my life where I lost touch with reading. Ironically it coincided with higher education and the beginning of my career, when it could have helped me out a lot with assignments, and client reports! Reading doesn’t just fill you with new ideas but it exposes you to different styles of writing and can sometimes give you that little bit of inspiration needed to jump-start your assignment. Whether its books, articles around the subject matter you are writing about, fact or fiction. It might just push your anxiety into the background and bring your eager excitement to express yourself to the foreground.
Take a walk – this one is simple and pretty straightforward and yes, it sounds like health advice for the elderly. But we all know by now if you’re anxious about anything exercising always helps. In this case take a walk strategically, using the time to mull over the topic you need to tackle for your essay may not be a bad idea the next time you’re experiencing some essay anxiety! Here’s a five-minute TedTalk on the topic:
There isn’t a single answer to the question of “how to battle essay anxiety”. Each person will have a different trigger which causes essay anxiety. You’ll have to identify what yours are and try to use some of these ways to relieve your own essay writing anxiety.