Tips for Working with Reluctant Writers
Tip One: Provide A Visual Reward
Picture the struggling writer: He sits at the table, a blank sheet of paper in front of him. He swings his feet back and forth, taps the pencil on the table, rubs his head and sighs. Because he is a compliant child, he sincerely tries to do his assignment. Because he is an energetic child, he wants to get it done so he can do something involving action.
Thirty minutes later, he is finished. He has labored the entire time, but those five sentences take up about one fourth of the paper. Three-fourths of the page is blank, and his sentences appear insignificant against all that emptiness. A few lines at the top of the page don’t “look” like much; they certainly don’t reflect the effort put forth to get them there.
Discouragement can be reduced by two simple tactics. First, have him write on a half-piece of paper. I’m not kidding. Cut the paper in half. Use the bottom half for the next assignment if you’re nervous about waste. As an alternative, use composition books. The pages are all ready smaller. A smaller page has less “blankness” to fill.
Second: double-space. The title of his assignment should go on the top line. Next, skip a line, then he should put “by (his name).” Skip four more lines before beginning the body of his paragraph. Then the paragraph should have a blank line between each line of writing.
These two strategies, using smaller paper and skipping lines, will provide a visually rewarding product. Instead of a few lines at the top of a full sheet of paper, the writing is spread out, giving an appearance of more volume.
Tell your writer that you want him to double-space to give room for your comments. If you give him a half-sheet of paper instead of using a composition book, tell him you are saving paper. Both are true statements and will not detract from the encouragement this tip can promote.
He will still swing his legs back and forth, tap the table with his pencil and sigh. But at least when he has done his best, the paper won’t swallow up his effort. Visually, the words on the page will be more rewarding.
Tip Two coming soon!