Why is academic writing difficult?

Academic writing is a complex subject. And it's that complexity that makes it difficult. Although I have been in academic writing since 1996, it was only recently that I realized why so many writing tips don't work for graduate students and professors. Have you noticed a pattern? Everyone writes for a secular audience.

Yes, you can expect criticism, but the main reason you post is to inform or entertain a subsection of the audience. I was never taught to write or teach. I entered my first class on September 28, 2001, with no teaching experience. And write? We received zero writing training unless you sometimes told cryptic comments in our works.

A common theory is that academics write badly on purpose. Rather than trying to be as clear and understandable as possible, academic articles are attempts to impress other scholars with how obscure and complex their research is, or worse, to hide the fact that they have nothing new to say. This may be partly true, but to claim that all academics are selfish braggars is too simplistic. The causes of the prevalence of bad writing are more complex and interesting.

We received vague, often frustrating comments from a group of people who were not taught to write either. Apparently, MANY graduate students, postdocs and professors identified with how HARD it is to write. Once you realize this, you can let go of the overproductive academic mindset (perpetuated by shrinking labor markets and increasing demands for permanence) and realize that it's okay that not everything you write is published. But the deeper we as writers go into the lives of others, the more susceptible we become to assume their trauma, simply by listening.

Unlike journalists who receive continuous comments, whether negative or positive, academic writers can work on a book for ten or even twenty years, without substantial comments. The theory, put forward by several academics, including Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker, states that if you know something, it's very hard to imagine what it's like not to know it. I hardly ever start with free writing anymore, and I usually work more than a 25-minute pomodoro, but I still do the Writing Challenge with my friends and get into writing support Slack at least once a week. The struggle to read excessively complex and jargon-laden academic texts is something most college students would be familiar with.

I feel a sense of vindication to see this recognition from a distinguished academic like you that yes, academic writing is difficult, so thank you, this is an opportune impetus to overcome the last few months of my thesis writing. On the other hand, many academics seem to dismiss the popularization of their fields as a futile and risky search. I was amazed at the difference this made in my feelings about writing, and how leaving feeling good made it much easier to write the next day. For me, sitting down to write a new paper or returning to a half-finished one requires positive reinforcement.

To make matters worse, scholars who write, research, and experience primary and secondary trauma are expected to produce and write at the same pace as those who don't (not to mention the additional service activities that also accompany it).