Professors as Writers: Assessing Writing Problems

Decorative: Cover of the book "Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to productive Writing"

 

Questions from “An Instrument for Assessing Writing Problems” from an old classic -- Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing by Robert Boice (available in the Education Library, 808.02 B65 1990).

A “self-administered diagnostic for writers,” the below checklist helps writers focus on (and then, hopefully, address) their own specific challenges in producing academic writing, focusing on six areas:

  • Work apprehension
  • Procrastination
  • Writing apprehension
  • Dysphoria
  • Impatience
  • Perfectionism

Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing engages of these issues and can be found in the Education Library, read through Kindle Unlimited, or purchased in hard copy or as an e-book though Amazon.ca.

A. Checklist for Overt Signs of Blocking (COSB)

“[I]magine how you would probably act when faced with a tough and important writing assignment, and then check [the items] that would best describe you.

1. Work Apprehension

  • “Others would hear me complain: ‘I don’t feel like doing this’ (or words to that effect).”
  • “Others would hear me complain about how difficult or fatiguing the writing will be.”
  • “Others would hear me complain about the difficulties in generating useful, significant ideas for writing.”
  • “Others would hear me complain about the realistic possibilities of my writing being criticized, even rejected.”

2. Procrastination

  • “I would put off the writing as long as possible (even just before the deadline, if there is one).”
  • “I would use delaying tactics such as working on more ‘pressing’ tasks, like housecleaning or reading the newspaper.”
  • “I would, once ready to write, spend a lot of time daydreaming.”
  • “Others would hear me complain about the agency or people who made the writing task (and deadline) necessary.”

3. Writing Apprehension

  • “Others would hear me express nervousness about writing.”
  • “Others would notice that, when I try to write, I fatigue, even ‘cramp,’ easily”
  • “Others would hear my worries about not writing as well as my peers.”

4. Dysphoria

  • “Others would see that, when faced with writing, I show signs of depression (e.g. sad expression, lethargy, complaints of feeling helpless).”
  • “Others would see me panicking, unable to write, perhaps even acting dizzy and in danger of losing control.”
  • “Others would hear me devalue the writing assignment and/or my own writing ability.”
  • “Others would observe me express suspiciousness about specific people who will deliberately discredit my writing.”

5. Impatience

  • “Others would hear me complain that, once under way, my writing is going too slowly … that I need to make up for lost time.”
  • “Others would hear me express disappointment in not producing good copy easily and quickly.”
  • “Others would observe that, when I do write, I work with few breaks or rest periods, in intense and hurried fashion.”
  • “Others would observe that I resist taking the extra time to carry out post-writing tasks such as revising, getting informal reviews from friends, proofreading carefully.”

6. Perfectionism

  • “Others would observe me doing regular editing (e.g. stopping to correct misspellings) during the first draft.”
  • “Others would observe me having a hard time finishing a manuscript because I insist on making refinements.”
  • “Others would hear me worrying that I may have overlooked important literature or committed some incredible oversight in writing.”
  • “Others would see me struggle to include too much information in my manuscript.”

7. Rules

  • “Others would hear my Negativism about outlining and/or observe that I don’t outline before writing (or that, if I do, I then ignore the outline).”
  • “Others would observe that I rarely write a completely revised version of my first draft.”
  • “Others would observe my preference for not writing until I have a substantial period of free time available.”
  • “Others would hear my belief that writers work best alone, without imposing on or depending on others.”

B. Checklist of Cognitions/Emotions in Blocking (CCB)

Assess the “likelihood [you] would say something like [the following].”

1. Work Apprehension

Assess the “likelihood [you] would say something like this”:

  • “I don’t feel like writing.” “I don’t want to do this.”
  • “This is going to be exhausting, tiring.” “Writing wears me out.”
  • “I have no ideas for writing.”
  • “Even if I do a good job, the person (or persons) who evaluates my writing may criticize it from some picky reason.”

2. Procrastination

  • “I work best when I wait until the last minute.” “I’ve always managed to get papers done under pressure.”
  • “I’ll wait until I’m feeling more like writing.” “I’ll feel more like writing if I do something else first.”
  • “If I just relax and think, good ideas may come to me.”
  • “I wish I hadn’t agreed to write this paper,” and/or “I feel annoyed at ‘X; for forcing me to do this.”

3. Writing Apprehension

  • “I feel nervous about starting.”
  • “I’m already exhausted and I’m only beginning,” and/or “My wrist is so tight and cramped that it’s hard to write.”
  • “I’ll bet that ‘X’ won’t like this.” “He/she may even laugh at my writing.” “I’ll feel like a fool.”
  • “I probably won’t do as good a job as my peers would.” “I just don’t match up to what others can do.”

4. Dysphoria

  • “I feel depressed.” “This makes me feel so sad I could cry.” “This makes me feel really helpless.”
  • “I am panicking.” “I may be losing control.” “I may not be able to catch my breath.” “I’m going to be too sick to write.”
  • “This is a stupid writing assignment.” “Most published writing is pointless.” “I have nothing original or worthwhile to say.” “I’m never going to be a good writer.”
  • “No matter how well I do, there are a few people who will deliberately discredit my work.”

5. Impatience

  • “I’m not working fast enough,” “I’ve got too much to do and too little time.” “I need to make up for lost time.”
  • “If I were working efficiently, writing would come more easily, in more finished form.”
  • “Once I get started, I like to keep working as long as I can.” “If I stop for a break, I might lose my train of thought.”
  • “I’d like to revise (or show my manuscript to friends or proof more carefully) when I’m finished, but I’m too busy.”

6. Perfectionism

  • “I’m not comfortable going on with my first draft unless I stop to correct errors.”
  • “No matter how long I’ve worked on a paper, I like to keep revising and perfecting, even after I suspect the paper is ‘good enough.’”
  • “What if I’ve overlooked something, missed a reference?” “What if someone else has already written a similar paper that I don’t know about?”
  • “Once I’ve gone to the trouble to read an article, I can’t stand to leave it out of my review section.”

7. Rules

  • “I hate to outline.” “I don’t need outlines.”
  • “I like to wait until I have an inspiration or a clear idea of what I’m going to say.”
  • “I can’t write unless I can set aside a large period of time when I have nothing else to do.”
  • “I like to write in private, without having to rely on help from others.”

C. Survey of Social Skills in Writing (SSSW)

“Check the extent to which you would engage in the following activities when engaged in a tough and important writing task.”

1. Work Apprehension

  • “I would begin by thinking of ways to involve other people as helpers, as coauthors, as sources for ideas and inspiration, etc.”
  • “I would write for myself instead of a specific, imagined audience, at least initially.”

2. Procrastination

  • “I like to set up a schedule, to work around other people who are writing.”
  • “I tend to resent people who try to help me with my writing, especially if they are pushy.”

3. Writing Apprehension

  • “I think it’s best not to discuss my writing problems with others.”
  • “I believe that my writing problems are unique to me – that few, if any other people, suffer in similar ways.”

4. Dysphoria

  • “My friends take an active interest in my writing and feel free to offer support and criticism.”
  • “I tend to see criticism of my writing as personal attacks.”

5. Impatience

  • “I try to place as much importance on post-writing tasks (e.g. casual reviews by friends, revising and re-submitting) as on the original writing.”
  • “I resist the temptation to ask for opinions etc. before submitting a paper because I am simply too busy.”

6. Perfectionism

  • “I find it east to suppose that others, even friends, will think less of me if they see an example of my poor or erroneous writing.”
  • “I tend to believe that my writing must be more thorough-going and polished that that of my peers.”

7. Rules

  • “I tend to suspect that most people have little to say and, thus, might be better off not writing.”
  • “I tend to believe that other, less experienced writers can be helpful collaborators in my own writing process.”
Printer Friendly, PDF & Email