What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class. If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity :-)
The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer. These sections are mostly unedited, but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).
Text behind the cut.
Prevalence and Consequences of Blocking
Any examination of writer’s block or writing apprehension will reveal that it can cripple productivity at all stages, from beginning writers to professional novelists. One study found that nearly 42% of surveyed graduate students “nearly always or always” engaged in significant procrastination on major writing projects such as term papers (Onwuegbuzie & Collins, 2001). In another study of graduate students writing their first major research proposal (similar in format to a dissertation), almost every one of the students reported struggling (Onwuegbuzie, 1997). The consequences of writing apprehension and procrastination behavior include stress symptoms such as lack of sleep, worry, anxiety, panic, anger, and guilt, as well as less-efficient, lower-quality writing (Onwuegbuzie, 1997). Anxiety about composition significantly lowers the effectiveness of up to 20% of writers (Onwuegbuzie, 1997), although Boice finds much higher numbers.
In studies of new faculty beginning tenure-track positions, Boice (1995, p. 417) has found that “over 80 percent of new hires” experience significant difficulty in maintaining sufficient writing productivity to meet standards for retention, tenure, and promotion. These faculty often try to delay writing until summer, with the consequence that they do not have sufficient output after their probationary period, and are in danger of losing their jobs (Boice, 1995; Valian, 1985). Studies in the Australian academic system confirm the often-reported result that most academic publishing comes from a relatively small percentage of faculty, and that very large numbers of faculty publish at a rate of less than 1 article per 2-3 years (McGrail, Rickard, & Jones, 2006), which is generally insufficient to earn tenure in the U.S.
One of the very few approaches to address prevention (as opposed to treatment) for writer’s block is outlined by Huston (1998). Huston points out that it is possible to prevent this situation by using many of the techniques advocated by Boice. For example, Huston recommends beginning to write very early in the project design process and involving social support, both of which are strong components of Boice’s (1990) system (Huston, 1998). In addition to prevention, Boice’s work also addresses how to use behavioral and contingency management techniques for relapse prevention and maintenance.
Next up: treatment! What kinds of help would you like to see, Grumpeteers?