Wrestling with Writer's Block: Pedagogical Interventions that Work and Why


Author/Creator ORCID



Type of Work




Master of Arts in English

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States


"Wrestling with Writer's Block: Pedagogical Interventions that Work and Why" presents a study about first year composition students' experiences with writer's block and how understanding one's writer identity and writing process is essential to learning to compose through this experience. Prior research from within composition studies that examines the inability to write refers to this phenomenon as writer's block, writing anxiety, and writing apprehension (Rose; Bloom; Daly and Miller). These terms are significant as language like writing anxiety or apprehension considers the inability to write as a chronic problem that needs diagnosis and treatment; consequently, this perspective negatively shapes how instructors work with students who struggle to write as it encourages instructors and students to seek to eradicate the phenomena, rather than learning to understand it as part of many writer's processes. Additionally, research on writer's block has almost exclusively been about instructors' perceptions of how and why students experience writer's block, rather than including students themselves. This oversight limits instruction as students need to share their experiences with writer's block and what strategies they find useful for overcoming moments of writer's block and to learn from each other. "Wrestling with Writer's Block" builds on this prior work by reasserting that we need to address and describe the phenomena through the colloquial and student-preferred term of writer's block. Through analyzing three interviews with students who identify as experiencing writer's block, this project describes how understanding one's own identity as a writer and individual writing process is essential to better understanding writer's block. This thesis argues that writer's block is an integral part of the writing process for many students; as such, exploring the experience presents an opportunity for growth and learning and should not be seen as an enemy to composing. By studying students' descriptions of their writer identity, metaphorical language about writing and writer's block, and language of transfer, "Wrestling with Writer's Block" argues that instructors must incorporate pedagogy which does not treat students who experience writer's block like they are broken or sick; rather, instructors should encourage students to discover their writer identity and individual writing process to increase their confidence as writers and work with rather than against writer's block.