Writing Under the Influence: The Scholarly Writer at Work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


" "How do I get started on a list of references?" "Who am I to be writing about_____?" "Who wants to hear from me?" It sometimes seems to me—as a college professor of writing and literature, a psychoanalytic scholar, and a clinician who specializes in writing impasses—that I spend my entire day listening to this catalogue of crippling concerns and anxieties. Because writers come to me for help not when their writing is going well, but when it isn't, they have a lot to teach other writers. Is there useful insight for them in the shadows of this research and theorizing about literature? Because their rigorous training in critical thinking, research, and argument often omits the psychological obstacles and challenges they might encounter, academic and scholarly writers must wrestle with the usual trials of writing as well as challenges exacerbated by the competitive pressures of intellectual public discourse and publishing. Haunted, sometimes hounded, by critical voices, these writers feel diminished rather than supported by the weight of their ancestors, whose legacies can leave writers worried that they have little to add to the public spaces of their disciplines, or that they are developing nothing more than ideas borrowed from another. Because "acknowledgement of influence potentially diminishes the uniqueness and value of the writer's contributions" (Slochower, 1998, p. 334), the very writers we admire can cast big shadows, as if there were only room for one generation at a time. [...]what expands our minds can also sometimes make us feel small, contingent, mere imitations of our forebears.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalAmerican Imago
StatePublished - 2019


  • writing process
  • writing anxieties
  • unconscious competition


  • Arts and Humanities
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

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