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Writer's Block

Writer's Block

The Cognitive Dimension

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Mike Rose


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
160 pages, 5.5 x 8.5, 7 illustrations

Studies in Writing and Rhetoric


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About the Book

Writer’s block is more than a mere matter of discomfort and missed dead­lines; sustained experiences of writer’s block may influence academic success and career choices. Writers in the business world, profes­sional writers, and students all have known this most common and least studied problem with the composing process. Mike Rose, however, sees it as a limitable problem that can be precisely analyzed and remedied through instruc­tion and tutorial programs.

Rose defines writer’s block as “an in­ability to begin or continue writing for reasons other than a lack of skill or com­mitment,” which is measured by “pas­sage of time with limited productive involvement in the writing task.” He applies insights of cognitive psychology to reveal dimensions of the problem never before examined.

In his three-faceted approach, Rose de­velops and administers a questionnaire to identify writers experiencing both high and low degrees of blocking; through stimulated recall he examines the composing processes of these writers; and he proposes a cognitive conceptualization of writer’s block and of the composing process.

In drawing up his model, Rose delin­eates many cognitive errors that cause blocking, such as inflexible rules or con­flicting planning strategies. He also dis­cusses the practices and strategies that promote effective composition.

The reissue of this classic study of writer’s block includes a new preface by the author that advocates more mixed-methods research in rhetoric and composition, details how he conducted his writer’s block study, and discusses how his approach to a study like this would be different if conducted today.


Mike Rose is on the faculty of the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and is the author of Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America, The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker,and An Open Language: Selected Writing on Literacy, Learning, and Opportunity.