Are You Suddenly a Bad Writer?

Person feeling bad about their writing
I used to be so good at this…

If you’re a first-year PhD student, it’s entirely common to start worrying about your abilities as a writer.

“I used to think I was a decent writer,” the thought goes. “Now I just don’t know.”

Personally, I’ll never forget the experience of submitting my first-ever graduate-level colloquium paper at Columbia University, and the day we were all set to receive our grades and comments. I was standing outside the classroom with a group of cohort-mates, all of us uncharacteristically quiet.

I decided to break the silence.

“Does anyone else feel like a shitty writer all of a sudden? I used to know how to do this and now I just don’t!”

Yea! Yes! I know! Same here!, everyone piped up, cacophonously.

Everyone (or everyone who’s honest with themselves) goes through this stage. Just know that it’s entirely normal and, I’d venture to say, even healthy.

3 comments
  1. Professor Mullaney,
    Thanks for this post. UW thoroughly introduces the concept of “imposter syndrome” for incoming graduate students and encourages them to try their best to shut out the voice inside telling them how “you don’t belong,” “your writing is horrible,” etc. Good to be reminded that this sort of feeling happens to even the best. Any tips on how to overcome the “writer’s block” or that general feeling of inadequacy? Thanks!
    Chris

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