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Fear of Publishing and What to Do About It

Youíre almost done with the whole article. You should feel relieved. Instead you feel like youíve written a bunch of junk.Itís funny, though. At other times youíve felt that youíve written something worthwhile.Now, however, you feel the urge to read several more articles, add more footnotes, edit it some more, or check your email. Anything but wrap it up and send it in.

It doesnít matter if itís a ďrevise and resubmitĒ article for a journal or a draft chapter to show to your dissertation advisor. Thereís something anxiety-provoking about letting go of your work and putting it out there for the wider world to see.

One very brilliant client of mine told me how she had a similar feeling when she was 9 months pregnant. The babyís room wasnít ready, and she had so much more to do. She tried to will herself not to give birth yet. Luckily, her body didnít cooperate. Now she tries to do the same with journal articles.

This reluctance to release oneís work is so common in academia, that it may well be the norm. In some cases, though, it can become crippling.

Reasons for Reluctance to Release WritingHere are the kinds of statements that I hear from academics in regards to this issue. Each statement is followed by an alternate way to look at the situation. If youíve found yourself saying anything like this to yourself, try the alternate way of thinking on for size.

  • Who am I to make that definitive a statement?o If not you, then who? What makes someone else an authority and not you? Where and when did the current authorities start having the authority to make their statements?ō I have an idea, but I canít find any references to cite that say what Iím thinking.o Maybe thatís because itís an original idea! Sometimes new ideas really are leaps. Run it by some colleagues and see what they think.
  • Iím intimidated by the fact that others have written about my subject for much longer than I have.o Sometimes people who are steeped in a subject canít think about that subject in as clear a light as a newcomer.o A new voice is always welcome (and if it isnít, too bad for them.)
  • My viewpoint doesnít fit the mental maps of academics in my field, so they will disagree with what I say.o Try to welcome disagreement! The best scholarly contributions often incite others to argue vociferously against the new ideas. By generating discussion youíre advancing the field.o The critical nature of academia is paralyzing to some. Itís important to realize that academics enjoy thinking and puzzling things out. The ďdevilís advocateĒ approach that looks for holes in your logic is just part of the process. Try not to take that part personally.o Remember that some of the most famous theorists, even the ones with scads of data to back them up, invited the most invective. Charles Darwin comes to mind Ė Iím sure you can think of others.
  • What if I just donít know what Iím talking about?o Then finish the piece, have others read it, and find out! Chances are youíre not completely out of your mind.
  • Everything Iíve written is junk. It doesnít make any sense to me any more.o Itís time to finish the up the part youíre writing, give it a rest, and let someone else look at it. Either fresher eyes or new eyes will help you see it in a new light.o If youíre not totally burned out, push past that feeling. Trust the process. As one client said, donít flip out just when youíre at the cusp of turning it from cream into butter. It seems like nothing is happening, but if you perservere, you will see that you have produced something worthwhile.
  • I can see that itís not perfectly written. Iím a sham and a charlatan and I donít deserve to be in this field.o It doesnít have to be perfect; it just has to be good enough.o You donít have to be perfect. If youíve gotten this far, you ARE good enough. Besides, everyone in academia feels that way every once in a while.o Looking over already published papers will remind you that imperfect writing still gets published. And has some value!ō Thereís so much more I could say about this subject.o You can use this excuse never to complete a project about the subject.o Itís OK to keep writing about the subject. In your next paper, chapter, or presentationArticle Submission, that is. Finish this one Ė youíve probably said enough for now.

So Give Birth To That Baby!The world deserves to hear what you have to say. Donít deprive the universe of your ideas! Release them from your brain and get them out there!

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Gina J Hiatt, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, tenure coach and dissertation coach and enjoys helping faculty and graduate students complete research, writing projects, and publish, while maintaining high teaching standards and other commitments. In addition to dissertation coaching, she teaches workshops and teleclasses on time management, writing, career planning and grad student/advisor relationships. Sign up for my free newsletter at or call me at (703) 734-4945.

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