Date of Award

Fall 1998

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Patricia A Sullivan


Writing fluently without disabling apprehension requires an ability to control ideas despite the occurrence of censoring thoughts or shameful sensations. Such ability is characteristically lacking in apprehensive or blocking writers, who, therefore, have difficulty in composing. To understand the psychological and social factors that impede the writing process, and to give writers and compositionists insight into the features of writing that result in "writer's block," I held conversational interviews with twenty-four people who designate themselves as apprehensive writers about their literacy experiences and writing behavior. Analysis of these interviews shows that these people, in anticipation of a real or inward, imagined audience, behave so as to hide their writing, which is consistent with unacknowledged shame at a projected failure. Passive, engrossed reading appears to condition these people to set high standards for their writing performance. To tolerate writing and to acquire pride in it, the individual needs flexibility and sensitivity in the preparation and reception of written texts, and the university needs to accommodate writers' self-reproach through institutionalizing writers' coping mechanisms, such as de-emphasizing revision and using technology to reduce exposure.