Writing Apprehension

Hey, guys.

For my peer tutoring class I’m researching ways in which writing centers can help students with writing apprehension (dread/fear of writing) and any emotional aspect of the writing process. I’m mostly focusing on “dysfunctional writing techniques”, whether that’s procrastination, perfectionism (compulsive editing-as-you-write), or dependence on rigid rules (grammar, catchy intros, the five-paragraph essay, etc.). All of these things hinder the flow of productive writing and cause stress.

I’m just wondering if any of you have any particular strategies that give you momentum as you write, or help you deal with any frustration or stress that you may feel.

I think some degree of stress is probably healthy, because you sort of have to throw yourself in before you really know what direction you’re going to take, and there are always problems and specific choices to be made. But stress that’s caused by compulsive editing or any of the other things I mentioned is usually counterproductive.

I’ve been looking into exercises like freewriting, writing “shitty first drafts,” and loop writing, all of which center on the idea that writing is a process of discovery; the best way to start is just to write, without editing anything (spelling, word choice, etc.), whatever comes to mind. After that, you have something to work with, even if most of it is junk, and it’ll probably lead you in new directions that you hadn’t considered before. I think this helps address the problems of not knowing what to write (procrastination), getting bogged down on word choice (perfectionism), and sacrificing interesting, original ideas in order to fit into some rigid framework. My biggest issue is that I’m not sure that any of these solutions are practical when it comes to a thirty-minute tutoring session.

Do you guys have any ideas? Either ideas for general writing techniques or for specific tutoring techniques would be appreciated. Thanks!

4 thoughts to “Writing Apprehension”

  1. I am a person that procrastinates writing assignments that I know are going to be extremely challenging for me. I also get too worked up over creating a catchy intro and conclusion. What I have found that works for me is to just outline very briefly what I want me essay to be like. On a lined piece of paper I will write intro and write what I know needs to go there (or leave it blank if I’m still confused). I will then write what I know the other paragraphs must be about (just a sentence or two) up until the conclusion. This helps me visualize the flow, and overall argument my paper will make so I can change things around, if need be, before I begin to write.

    After I do this I just start on my shitty first draft. I just write everything that I want to write regardless of how horrible it is. After the awful first draft I refuse to look at my paper again for at least another day. Then I print if off and go to town on it with a red pen. It really helps me to edit my paper in print rather than off a computer screen. This is one of the largest things that has improved my editing skills that I think can offer others a lot of help as well.

    But for just a 30 min session I would help them outline their essay. What goes where. What transition should be used to go from this idea to this. What the intro will look like and how eventually will it end ect.

    Hope this helps!

  2. Thanks, it does help! I think you’re right – outlining in a really general way that gives some kind of structure without boxing a student in would make it a lot easier for them to get started on a paper. And this could easily be done in a tutoring session.

    I think this is possible for people who bring in a draft that they’ve already written too. I do the same thing you do and print out my drafts, and then I work backwards and do a kind of reverse outline. It helps me step back and see how I’ve structured my writing and decide whether or not the organization is effective. I think this helps break down the writing process into manageable pieces, because I know I don’t have to get it perfect the first time, so this would be a good strategy to share with a student as well.

  3. I can see why it would be a challenge to do any productive exercises in a short 30 minute time period. I agree that helping them outline their paper would be really beneficial. I think you could also have them organize their ideas, and figure out what their main argument is. This has been a challenge for me, and sometimes another set of eyes can really help to pull out the bigger picture.

    Maybe you can create a flyer that includes some other exercises that are not able to be completed in a short 30 minute session. This would give students other options to do on their own time, which may be really beneficial. Hope these ideas help!

    1. Yeah, I definitely think giving them the option to do some exercises on their own time is a good idea. I won’t know for sure if they’ll actually do any of them, but I think there are a lot of people who would. I did! Just letting them know that there’s a wide variety of techniques that they might not know about is helpful.


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