Writing Apprehension: How Can The Writing Center Help?
In an effort to better serve students in the writing center, and also to improve upon my own dysfunctional writing process, I set out to study the causes, symptoms, and effects of writing apprehension (see below). As a tutor and as a writer, it is important to me to optimize the experience of writing so as to make it as productive and rewarding as possible. Writing apprehension can stand in the way of this goal, but together a tutor and tutee can overcome it.
Writing center discourse is often centered on the idea that writing is a process, and a tutor’s job is to aid student writers throughout various stages of their composing processes. Steven North supports this view in his essay, “Idea of a Writing Center,” as do many others who outline the basic stages of writing and various rhetorical tools and techniques that tutors can teach to students. However, this view is incomplete. Writing is not simply a progression from one technical stage to the next; if writing centers are to create “better writers, not better writing” (North), then they must address the emotional components of the writing process as well. For many, anxiety, procrastination, and perfectionism are a part of the composing process in addition to the more commonly recognized stages of planning, drafting, revising, and so on. Writers who experience these feelings to the extent that they are crippled by them each time they approach a writing assignment can be said to have “writing apprehension,” or “an irrational, unproductive fear of writing characterized by avoidance and withdrawal” (Johnstone 2010). This can have disastrous consequences, the worst of which – for writing centers and students alike – being withdrawal from writing altogether. Because of this, writing centers must take an interest in working with apprehensive writers in a very student-centered, rather than product-centered, way – perhaps even more so than North suggests. Tutors must be taught to identify potential apprehensive writers through conversation and through analysis of students’ composing processes; they need to understand possible causes for writing apprehension as well as an array of techniques to help students overcome this obstacle and become better writers.
To find out about possible techniques and solutions for writing apprehension, please read my full research paper below.