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Anxiety About Academic Writing: Writing is too hard

Learn more about techniques and tools to help you if you feel anxious about academic writing

You might be feeling:

  • I think/know that I have a learning or physical disability, and writing assignments is difficult and time-consuming for me.
  • English isn't my native language, and writing in English is so difficult.
  • I work really hard at my writing, but my grades on my assignments are never as good as I expect them to be.

What can you do right now?

Emotional strategies

  • Before you start writing, try some relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, to clear your mind as much as possible.
  • Writing becomes easier when authors know what they want to say before they start writing. Try outlining, mind-mapping (try Canva), jotting down bullet points on sticky notes, creating a PowerPoint presentation of what you'd like to cover, or talking your ideas through first.
  • It can be really difficult to get motivated when a task seems difficult!  One way to overcome this is to break your writing time down into manageable chunks.  Try setting a timer for 30 minutes and focus on your writing during that time. When the time is up, give yourself a well-deserved break before setting the timer again for another short period of writing.
  • If writing feels hard for you, it's important to leave enough time so you don't add time as another stressor to the mix. See "I never have enough time" in this guide for more information.

Writing strategies

  • Planning is an essential step in making writing easier; see Planning the paper for information and resources. Try different approaches to see which ones work best for you.
  • People's brains process information differently depending on the medium we are using.
    • If things begin to feel clunky with your keyboard, try switching to pen and paper to get your ideas down.
    • Try printing your paper and reading though it as a hard copy. 
    • Try speech-to-text options; see "Speech-to-text tools" for suggestions.
  • Contact Accessibility Services to learn more about how to be tested for a suspected disability (e.g., dyslexia); in the case of a documented disability, please contact Accessibility Services to learn about the accommodations that are available to you.
  • If you are a student in a program offered through the Global Learning and Language Centre (GLLC) (e.g., "English for Academic Purposes", "University Academic Preparation"), please contact the Global Learning and Language Centre (GLLC) for help with your English writing skills. If you are a student in year three of an undergraduate program, you are welcome to contact either the GLLC or the Writing Centre for assistance. If you're in year four of an undergraduate program, in a graduate certificate or diploma program, or enrolled in a graduate degree program, please book an appointment with the Writing Centre as we'd be pleased to assist you!
  • Contact your instructor to request a conversation to learn more about why your grades aren't as high as you expect. While receiving the feedback might not be easy, the conversation will identify specific skills for you to develop. Once you have that information, book an appointment with the Writing Centre so that we can assist you.

Where can you learn more?

Ask for help

Counselling Services
(250) 391-2600 ext. 4515  
Book an appointment

Writing Centre
(250) 391-2600, ext. 4353 or 1-800-788-8028
Book an appointment