The Dangerous Blog for Grad Students

A How-To Tale

“Rigid Rules, Inflexible Plans, and the Stifling of Language: A Cognitivist Analysis of Writer’s Block” Precis September 2, 2008

Filed under: Precis — deduvick @ 2:55 pm
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Mike Rose

Writing is a problem-solving process.  And in any problem-solving process, the person doing the solving considers certain rules and plans.  These rules can be very narrow, hard-and-fast rules that lead to a specific result or than can be more general suggestions as to what to do.  The plans can vary from complex and confusing to low-key and flexible.  So, depending on what types of rules and plans you have fixed in your mind, your writing process can be very productive or full of blockages. 

This study considered ten students, five of which had serious blocks in their writing processes.  These were caused by a variety of reasons, but all falling within the categories of rules and plans.  Some were obsessed by a perfect introduction, others with outlining just so.  Some were rules that were taught in high school, some of these were continued to be taught in college, some were seemingly logical uprisings of their particular major and how those studies were constructed.

But it was the five students that realized that none of these rules were permanent, that everything and anything could be thrown out when necessary, that truly succeeded in their writing.  They were free to write partial drafts, long stream-of-conscious sentences and then revise to crop out what didn’t fit in with where their essays ended.


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