Source: Ryan, Leigh, and Lisa Zimmerelli. The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010. Print.
Just as we have students who describe themselves as “terrible” at math, we also have students who are “anxious” writers. When you encounter anxious writers in your class, you might share some of your own writing frustrations to dispel the fixed mindset (1) belief that there are “good” writers and “bad” writers. Acknowledge that writing is hard work for everyone. Telling students that experienced writers often find it difficult to sit down and write can be reassuring. Sharing the messiness of your own rough drafts might help them feel more at ease writing and discussing their own drafts. But it’s important to point out the satisfaction one can feel from producing a well-written paper.
Some strategies for working with the anxious writer:
- Briefly explain the writing process. Point out that starting early will help make the process easier.
- Go through the specifics of the assignment and ensure that the writer understands what is expected of him/her. You might take the opportunity help students practice reading and understanding writing prompts.
- Help writers break down the assignment into specific, manageable tasks. For example, rather than planning to write an entire draft in one sitting, help the writer separate the tasks, such as the introduction or one body paragraph. Help writers set up a reasonable schedule of deadlines, noting times when they might visit a tutor for support.
- Suggest that writers set firm writing appointments with themselves and build in rewards for accomplishments along the way.
- Remind writers that rough drafts do not have to be perfect, especially in the early stages. Encourage them to focus on ideas rather than finding the right word or finishing the perfect sentence before moving forward in their writing.
- Let them know about the writing resources they have, especially through tutoring at the Learning Center!
(1) See Carol Dweck; http://news.stanford.edu/news/2007/february7/dweck-020707.html