09 August 2016

Compression Sessions: Managing Short Writing Consultations

When I first started Compression Sessions, I found them to be more stressful than the regular, fifty-minute appointments.  The Compression Sessions seemed rushed, and, in the allotted fifteen minutes per session, I felt like I wasn’t helping the writer in a significant way.  However, over the past few months, I’ve discovered some methods for ensuring that Compression Sessions are as productive as possible.

1. Manage expectations
This goes for both the consultant and the consultee.  As a consultant, you’re not going to be able to address every issue within an entire essay, and it takes some time to get comfortable with that idea.  Instead, focus on the most critical, pressing issue(s), as well as what the student wants addressed.

At the beginning of the session, it’s important to clarify what a compression session entails, and what the writer can realistically expect out of it.  Compression sessions are tailored to short documents, and specific issues.  Writers will bring in five or even ten page documents, so setting clear expectations initially can help lessen disappointment.

2. Don’t rush
It may seem paradoxical, but take your time.  If you gloss over a document quickly, it often becomes difficult to make any real improvements.  Instead, focus in on certain problem areas and go slowly.  Even if you and the consultee only get to a small portion of the paper, at least that portion will show true improvement.

3.  Cut down on intake and outtake
Usually, consultations start off with a review of the assignment, questions about the writer’s concerns, etc.  Luckily, we have an intake form.  This form helps focus the writer by asking them to choose one main issue to address.  It also helps to minimize intake time.

Similarly, the end of a standard session is reserved for outtake.  Even in a compression session, it’s important to leave the writer with some lasting takeaway of what to work on.  However, given the time constraints, outtake is an area that can be proportionally shortened.

4.  Manage disappointment
Sometimes, at the end of a session, a writer will be disappointed when they haven’t gotten through much of their document.  They might see an empty waiting area and ask if they can take the next session.  The answer, unfortunately, is no.  It’d make for an awkward situation if another student walked in a minute later for a session.  And ultimately, if the sessions are taking longer than fifteen minutes, the student brought in a document that would have been better suited to a full session.  When in doubt, blame it on the bosses!  Say something like, “Studio rules only allow for fifteen minute sessions.”  In the end, it’s not your job to justify the length of a session. 

Happy consulting!

03 August 2016

Helping Writers Assess Their Blocking Tendencies and Writing Attitudes by Wendy Duprey

Helping Writers Assess Their Blocking Tendencies and Writing Attitudes

by Wendy Duprey


In the process of facing a blank page or computer screen, writers often struggle with writer’s block. For any number of reasons, we dread, obsess, procrastinate, and resist getting started with the writing process, quite often waiting until the deadline is upon us.

Some writers are afraid of others’ critical judgments, making mistakes, or failing to pass a course if they do not successfully write this paper. Other writers suffer from lack of confidence in their abilities to write a good paper, craft an argument, or meet a page requirement that seems impossible to them. In all of these cases, a psychological block forms, and the activity of writing is avoided, or stalled, rather than handled in a productive manner.

During consultations, the following self-assessment instrument, adapted from Mike Rose’s research on writer’s block, can be used to help writers and consultants identify their blocking tendencies and writing attitudes. Consultants can then discuss ways to overcome writer’s block, such as creating mini-writing goals, freewriting, visualizing ideas with images, using a graphic organizer or digital recordings, or engaging in frequent conversations about one’s writing process with supportive listeners and readers.

SELF-ASSESSMENT: BLOCKING TENDENCIES AND WRITING ATTITUDES

For each statement below, check off whether you “often to always” or “rarely to never” engage in this writing belief or behavior during the writing process.1

WRITING BELIEF OR BEHAVIOR
OFTEN - ALWAYS
RARELY - NEVER
1. My first paragraph has to be perfect before I’ll go on.


2. I’ll wait until I find just the right phrase before I move on.


3. Each sentence has to be just right before I’ll go on to the next sentence.


4. I find myself writing a sentence then erasing it, trying another sentence, then scratching it out.
I might do this for some time.


5. It is awfully hard for me to get started on a paper.



6. There are times when I sit at my desk for hours, unable to write a thing.


7. There are times when it takes me over two hours to write my first paragraph.


8. While writing a paper, I’ll hit places that keep me stuck for an hour or more.


9. There are times when I find it hard to write what I mean.


10. No matter how hard I try, I produce little, if any writing.


11. There are times when I’m not sure how to organize all the information I’ve gathered for a paper.


12. It is hard for me to write on issues that have many interpretations or angles.


13. I find it difficult to write essays on books and articles that are very complex.


14. I have trouble with writing assignments that ask me to compare and contrast or analyze.


15. Writing is a very unpleasant experience for me.



16. Even though writing is often difficult, I enjoy the process.


17. I like having the opportunity to express my ideas in writing.


18. I’ve seen some really good writing, and my writing doesn’t match up to it.


19. I think of my instructors reacting to my writing in a positive way.


20. My instructors are familiar with so much good writing that my writing must look bad by comparison.





Perfectionism (#1-4) – critical inner voice and controlled writing process

1. My first paragraph has to be perfect before I’ll go on.
2. I’ll wait until I find just the right phrase.
3. Each sentence has to be just right before I’ll go on to the next sentence.
4. I find myself writing a sentence then erasing it, trying another sentence, then scratching it out. I might do this for some time.

Blocking Tendencies (#5-10) – paralysis or a slow-starting writing process

5. It is awfully hard for me to get started on a paper.
6. There are times when I sit at my desk for hours, unable to write a thing.
7. There are times when it takes me over two hours to write my first paragraph.
8. While writing a paper, I’ll hit places that keep me stuck for an hour or more.
9. There are times when I find it hard to write what I mean.
10. No matter how hard I try, I produce little, if any writing.

Complexity Strategies (#11-14) – confused or frustrated writing process

11. There are times when I’m not sure how to organize all the information I’ve gathered for a paper.
12. It is hard for me to write on issues that have many interpretations or angles.
13. I find it difficult to write essays on books and articles that are very complex.
14. I have trouble with writing assignments that ask me to compare and contrast or analyze.

Writing Attitudes (#15-20) – thoughts and feelings that support or inhibit the writing process

15. Writing is a very unpleasant experience for me.
16. Even though writing is often difficult, I enjoy the process.
17. I like having the opportunity to express my ideas in writing.
18. I’ve seen some really good writing, and my writing doesn’t match up to it.
19. I think of my instructors reacting to my writing in a positive way.
20. My teachers are familiar with so much good writing that my writing must look bad by comparison.




1 Rose, Mike. Writer’s Block. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984.