Writing: Reluctant Writers

Dr Paul Gardner | View as single page | Comment/Feedback

Cognitive processes

The following is drawn from the literature providing the foundations for the study. See Gardner( xx) for details. Writing involves the integration of complex mental operations such as memory, motor-control, creativity and language processing. Poor orthographic memory or an inability to correctly spell a new word in the pupil's developing vocabulary can significantly constrain writing because of the pupil's fear of making a mistake. As a result the writer resorts to a repertoire of familiar words. This can result in an overly conservative approach, lacking the kind of risk-taking necessary for writing to develop. Alternatively, the 'poor' speller completes work that is peppered with crossed-out words or their efforts are returned from the teacher with numerous spelling errors.

A second aspect is the mis-match of the child's ability to share ideas or tell a story and their ability to write it. In this instance the child may be aware of the relative ease with which the story flows orally but becomes frustrated when this is not so easily processed in writing. There is, therefore, a dislocation between oral creativity and thinking processes during writing. This may be due to the additional skills required in written composition. Many established adult writers confess to finding writing a mental struggle. If the experienced writer finds this to be the case, it is not surprising the same applies to the novice writer, except the novice writer may have fewer personal strategies to help them 'wade-through' the process of writing. Extended writing requires mental stamina. Mental stamina may include not only the tenacity to work through, what is for the writer, a complex textual process, but may also include the inclination to proof-read and edit writing.

Some writers feel the need to craft every sentence until 'perfect' before moving on. Writing can be a slow and painstaking process for this type of writer. In classrooms where writing must be completed within specified time-slots, the perfectionist may never complete a piece of writing 'on-time', thereby appearing to be a reluctant writer, or else becomes one due to feelings of frustration or inadequacy.