Are you making these three writing mistakes?

Academic women 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 academic women I get to know, the more I realize that many of us have some things in common.

Some things that need to stop, right now.

Here are three common mistakes that I’ve seen academic women make, and what we can do to try to fix them for ourselves and the women 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 Ph.D. 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

I am extremely lucky to be in a Facebook group called “Academic Mamas.” There are 14,000+ women in this group. If you ever thought that you were the only one experiencing something, posting in the Academic Mamas group will quickly show you that you are not alone. Mansplaining colleagues? Reviewer #2 critiquing your summary of your own work? Interviewing for a tenure track job two weeks post-birth? These ladies have been through it all, and will happily commiserate and give you all kinds of (evidence-based!) advice.

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 academic mamas 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.

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? Download my free PDF cheat sheet: 10 ways to make time to write!

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