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Writing to understand: A personal tale of my journey to become an academic writer and overcome impostor syndrome

I really love writing. I absolutely do. But hasn’t always been like this.

Writing on campus

As a child, I actually did not like writing very much. Two factors influenced my enjoyment for the actual process. First, my Dad used to have a column in the local newspaper. Because his child was a book worm, he thought to himself, “why not develop Raul’s writing abilities?”. So he asked me to write columns about stuff I was curious about, and he would ask the newspaper editor to publish my op-eds.

Ironically, I ALWAYS felt impostor syndrome.

My older brother (Juan) had a natural talent for writing, specifically for novels, short stories, and fiction. I was jealous of the fact that he had filled notebook after notebook with his amazing short stories. He was, and remains, an excellent fiction writer.

At the time, at about the tender age of 10 years old, I felt like an impostor. As absurd as this may sound. I never saw myself as a writer despite having published many newspaper op-eds, whereas I felt that Juan was an accomplished one because he wrote fascinating, captivating, riveting stories.

Writing laptop at home

Until I realized I had a talent not for writing fiction and stories, but for reading, analyzing, and understanding. What I wrote was different from what my brother wrote. I was, and remain interested in writing TO UNDERSTAND and make sense of the world.

Library Cubicles at El Colegio de Mexico

To this day, that’s why I write. And now I actually enjoy the process of researching, analyzing data, synthesizing the literature and writing up what I find. I love writing, AND I love MY writing.

This “enjoying academia and writing” facet of mine is most prevalent when I’m writing about something I deeply care about. Obviously, I also feel…

That’s why you see me writing bits and pieces every day, and then three weeks in a row, WHAM BAM THANK YOU SIR and there you go, three journal articles out for review and a book chapter back to the editor.

Anyway, I think that the best piece of advice I can give my students and anybody who follows me on Twitter, or reads my blog, is to just relax. The big break, the “a-ha” moment, the “eureka” instant will come.

In the mean time, we need to keep the gears grinding. And under these circumstances, with great care, compassion and without stressing out. Work is and will always be there. Let’s just survive.

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