Photo by Pascale Amez on Unsplash

Cultivating a Sustainable and Enjoyable Writing Practice

Date: Friday 12 May – Friday 7 July 2023

If there’s an academic writing project on your desk for the summer, you may already be bracing yourself. It can be so challenging to find a way to make progress that also feels sustainable and enjoyable.

And of course you really want both.

This 8-week course teaches you to use the intelligence of your body as a key resource for your writing, helping you to meet the ‘pulls’ that make you stop or avoid writing and the ‘pushes’ that make writing feel depleting or punishing.

My intention is that by the end of this course:

  • you have made substantial progress with your writing;
  • you have become more versatile in finding ways into your writing that aren’t painful or difficult;
  • you’re taking pride and pleasure in writing ‘warts and all’, allowing your wounds, fears and limits as well as your strength and potential to contribute vitally to your writing.


Who is this course for?

It’s for people who want to move forward with their academic writing without hurting themselves or compromising their sense of integrity.

You may be very experienced or relatively new to academic writing – or anything in between.

Your project may be an article, a book (chapter), a thesis/dissertation, a research proposal or other kind of text. In any stage of development, including revisions.

This course is ideal for those who can commit daily (or near-daily) time to work on their project, but is compatible with a busy schedule and doesn’t require uninterrupted engagement during the eight weeks.

This course is not for people who have a tight deadline and want specific support for meeting that deadline. It’s also not for people looking to learn the technicalities of academic writing.


The multi-layered drama of academic writing

Finding a state of relaxed concentration to make progress with your writing can be difficult for many good reasons:

Academic writers can get stuck for many of the same reasons that creative writers do: the work feels overwhelming, the process is full of uncertainty, there’s fear of failure, fear of success, fear of ‘not enough’.

Then there’s the culture of evaluation in academia. Pervasive assessment, changing goalposts, and comparison with others regarding how much you’ve done, where it’s published and how fast, are hard on the nervous system. Structural inequalities add layers of discouragement and uphill battle.

And then there’s everyday life, in which writing needs to find a place alongside, well, everything else that’s going on, and how you feel, and how much energy you have.

If some or all of these layers apply to you, it may be hard to get started or to keep going, or you may find yourself in cycles of avoiding your writing and then pushing through in emergency mode.


The surprising effectiveness of an embodied approach

As it turns out, navigating the drama of academic writing is greatly supported by making your bodily experience of writing a whole lot more interesting than is typical in academic circles.

Most of us don’t think about writing as involving our bodies beyond ergonomic desk arrangements and reminders to get up and walk or stretch.

But the way we habitually approach and feel about our writing is expressed through the body. Because of this, and because our bodies are so well-equipped for self-regulation and for finding freedom in movement, an embodied approach to writing gives you a direct way to tap into your own resourcefulness.

This is the skill you’ll be learning and deepening in this course.

Over eight weeks, you’ll heighten your awareness of writing – your writing – as an embodied practice, using the Four Elements of Earth, Water, Fire and Air as a somatic map. Along the way, you’ll find new options for your writing, ways to work around blocks and challenges, and greater pleasure in expressing yourself in text. 


What can I expect?

  • To learn short body-based practices so you can immediately find new pathways into your writing and make progress with your project.
  • To spot moments when an “all or nothing”-orientation has invaded your approach to your writing, so you can let your body show you a way forward that feels kinder and more doable.
  • To develop greater awareness about what your current relationship to your project is, so that times when writing feels hard or impossible start to feel less disheartening, and don’t last as long.
  • To reconnect with what feels authentic, so your voice, strengths and gifts can show up in the text.
  • To build a personal repertoire of embodied resources that will become part of your writing life.

What this course has offered me is a way to cultivate a kinder, more gentle relationship to my writing and that of others—and, bonus, to become very productive in the process and to actually enjoy academic writing.

Nikki Mulder, PhD Researcher, Leiden University


About Catelijne

Photo by Kylie Sabine

This work has very personal origins for me: from the earliest days of my academic career I grew increasingly familiar with writing blocks and struggles: a constant flickering of I can – I can’t in relation to my writing.

Finding it hard to sustain a research career, I found my groove in teaching and nearly gave up writing for publication altogether. But something pulled me back to still wanting to do more of it. And I knew I wanted a different approach.

My second career as a coach and facilitator opened my eyes to working with the body. I started to translate what I learned from my embodiment teachers to the realm of writing, and this felt like a missing piece falling into place! It has allowed me to keep writing and has helped others reclaim their academic writing practice in ways that have been surprising and empowering.

This is what I want for you, too.


Course overview

In Week 1, the course starts with a workshop around the imaginative question “What does your writing want?”

Weeks 2-5 are the heart of the course. Weekly workshops and writing get-togethers and daily email prompts (Mon-Fri) invite you into a rhythm of work on your a chosen writing project. We follow the map of the Four Elements:

Week 2: Earth – slowness, steadiness, consistency.

Week 3: Water – fluidity, receptivity, relationality.

Week 4: Fire – desire to express.

Week 5: Air – playfulness, spaciousness.

Weeks 6, 7 and 8 are for consolidation and integration. This is a time to repeat or catch up on embodied writing practices from previous weeks as you continue to work on your project. You’ll meet new challenges and make new discoveries in the process, as well as develop your personal repertoire of embodied resources and reminders to access them.

The course is designed with the intention that you will take at least a week’s break from your writing during these eight weeks.


How will I know if this embodied approach is for me?

If you want a better sense, my recorded workshop ‘Carrying on With Your Writing‘ taught live at The Embodiment Conference in October 2020 introduces the approach we’ll be following here.

You don’t need to already have strong bodily awareness, or be confident moving your body (as a result of dance, martial arts, yoga or similar kinds of practice), for this to work for you.

And if you do have such awareness and such confidence, the direct focus on writing will likely bring new discoveries and possibilities.

The point is never to follow a tightly specified ‘right’ way of moving your body, but to have an experience that gives you useful information for how to accompany yourself in your writing.

It may also help to know that I often recommend that people turn their cameras off when we do movement. The Four Elements practices can be done in many variations, and I’ll provide options for differently mobile bodies and different spatial setups.


This course was incredibly helpful in realigning my approach to my writing. I spend much of my academic energy in my head, and as funny as that may sound, attending to my body, to what my body is doing when I write, has made a substantial difference for my ability to write, as well as how I write.

Sam Weiss Evans, Program on Science, Technology, & Society, Harvard University


As a seasoned movement teacher, I thought I stood on solid ground as far as body knowledge was concerned. This course offered a new encounter, one where the meeting of body and mind unlocked doors to deeply buried habits. Gentle, yet disciplined, structured, yet flexible, Catelijne’s method helped me squarely face the unknown and risk taking that next step towards writing freedom.

Glenna Batson, Professor Emeritus of Physical Therapy at Winston-Salem State University, NC; Independent Researcher and Lecturer in Dance, Somatics and Science.


Times and dates

Meeting days are Tuesdays and Fridays, from 10:15-11:45 Central European (Summer) Time

Live Zoom dates for 2023 – please note these are provisional and still subject to confirmation:

Friday 12 May 2023: Introductory workshop

Fridays 19 & 26 May, 2 & 9 June: 4 x “Four Elements” workshops

Fridays 16 June and 7 July: 2 x Consolidation and deepening workshops

Tuesdays 23 & 30 May, 6, 13, 20 & 27 June: 6 x Writing get-togethers


Want to stay informed about this?

Please subscribe to my mailing list to get announcements about this course.

Also, you can always write to me with any questions you may have.


A transformative experience that bleeds into every aspect of your writing practice.
Hélène Mialet, philosopher and anthropologist of science and technology


This has radically changed how I write as an academic and how I feel about writing. I no longer dread that moment of sitting down to write and the fear that the words will not come, or the right words will not come.

Sue Walters, Senior Lecturer in Education, University College London

For the first time, I really feel deeply that the fact that writing is hard doesn’t mean I’m failing. The learning of this course felt like a succession of tiny shifts, but these small shifts had big effects; I feel I can start to have a rich and complex relationship to my writing instead of one based mostly on fear, avoidance, perfectionism and resentment.

J. Laurent, PhD candidate, University of Amsterdam

The course helped me a lot in sticking with my writing through the pain and drama of it, tapping into my feelings and mobilising them, as well as being more daring and courageous in writing – at least in that moment with and for myself.
Miriam Jaehn, PhD candidate, National University of Singapore

Ah, the drama of writing (a PhD dissertation)! Catelijne’s course and her supportive approach to writing made the drama go away and the writing process much more enjoyable and personal. SPOILER ALERT: this course is inspirational, fun…and yes, maybe a bit weird 😉

Irene Moretti, PhD researcher, Leiden University

I enjoyed this course immensely and appreciated the spirit of empathy, care and community that was generated during the process.

Kristy Kang, Practice-based researcher in Singapore


Photo compilation by Chin Chuan Fei

Catelijne’s workshop introduced us to ways of writing that became experiments in living. I found my feet and gut as I wrote. Then we played. I wanted to create space for my fear and frustration; others helped me. I re-drew some boundaries in who I write for and why I write. These possibilities turned out to be ready to hand. Through daily exercises, weekly reviews, and shared stories, Catelijne joined us with insight and humour.

Chin Chuan Fei, Philosopher and counsellor