Reading Reflection #4

Writer’s Block is something I, an English major and teacher, constantly battle with when I try to sit down and write a paper. Although I am a fairly talented writer and my finished products are usually high quality, the process of turning to thoughts in my head into coherent and stylistically correct sentences is often a struggle. For these reasons, I was very pleased to read Mike Rose’s essay “Rigid Rules, Inflexible Plans, and the Stifling of Language: A Cognitivist Analysis of Writer’s Block” and learn some of the reasons why writer’s block occurs and how to help my student’s overcome this hurdle in their writing. To begin, Rose’s definition of writer’s block is outstandingly accurate. He describes it as, “…that frustrating, self-defeating inability to generate the next line, the right phrase, the sentence that will release the flow of words once again (Rose 149)”. He then goes on to discuss a study of 10 students from UCLA; all of whom are roughly comparable in backgrounds, academic performance, and overall attitudes. However, five of these students had no trouble with the writing process and the other half “…experienced moderate to nearly immobilizing writer’s block (149).” These cases of writer’s block, Rose discovered, were not manifested due to lack of writing ability, but rather the students’ hyperconsciousness to the strict rules of writing. Instead of simply writing their ideas down as they came to mind, these students ’ were consumed with making sure each sentence was perfect and free of any errors, even if they were only asked to write a rough draft. While the five students who did not struggle with

writer’s block “…also utilized rules…they were less rigid ones, and thus more appropriate to a complex process like writing (150)”. Rose indicates in his article that careful attention to the rules of writing seems to be the biggest source of writer’s block, and the students “…that offer the least precise rules and plans have the least trouble composing (157).” I find this to be a bit of a dilemma for me, as my current students are either low-achieving English students (in a remedial English class) or LEP students. Many of my students struggle with learning the basic rules of English grammar and writing, so it is critical that I do not ask them to emit these rules while writing. However, I do not want to create a situation of writer’s block for them because of the stress of these rules.

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