When J.K. Rowling conceived of the idea of “The Black Quill” she likely didn’t realize how much she spoke to a trauma that resonated deeply with anyone who has ever been subjected to writing as a punishment. For many, writing is an enjoyable experience. It provides a cathartic outlet for dreams, goals, fears, and fantasies. Writing is an experience that many wouldn’t want to live without. However, there are a host of people who would disagree. For them, writing is a source of stress, anxiety, and frustration. It is that last thing they would ever want to do despite it being an ever-present, cross-disciplinary skill.
But why is that?
In “Writing is Informed by Prior Experience,” Andrea Lunsford asserts that “even when writing is private or meant for the writer alone, it is shaped by the writer’s earlier interactions with writing,” (1640). Essentially, the ways in which we approach writing, experience writing, and execute writing are colored by the ways we’ve experienced writing in the past. So, for anyone who experienced writing in a negative way, their future experiences with writing will likely be negative.
Lunsford even touches on this idea of negative experiences when she writes, “for many people [. . .] prior experience with writing had been negative, and this attitude and these feelings went with them throughout their lives,” (1644). This idea is supported by the article “Pain and Pleasure in Short Essay Writing: Factors Predicting University Students’ Writing Anxiety and Writing Self-Efficacy” which claims that “from a psychodynamic perspective, writing anxiety may be rooted in students’ early experiences,” (352). The general idea being that negative experiences with writing in one’s past can impact the way one experiences writing in their present and future.
As someone who loves writing and pursues it professionally, even my past is not exempt from negative experiences. I remember being made to write “I will not talk while the teacher is talking” as a punishment for talking in class. Although the words didn’t magically etch themselves into my skin, the psychological wounds left behind were just as damaging. I didn’t want to pick up a pencil or pen for days because it reminded me of the cramps I felt in my hand after writing that 100 times. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones Lunsford mentions when she says, “such associations or prior experiences can be mitigated or changed,” (1644). But even though I overcame that experience, there are many with similar experiences who didn’t
I still won’t talk while the teacher is talking though.
Lunsford, Andrea. “Writing is Informed by Prior Experience,” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Kindle ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.
Martinez, Christy T., Ned Kock, and Jeffrey Cass. “Pain and Pleasure in Short Essay Writing: Factors Predicting University Students’ Writing Anxiety and Writing Self-Efficacy.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, vol. 54, no. 5, 2011, pp. 351-360. ProQuest, https://login.ezproxy.auctr.edu:2050/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.auctr.edu/docview/852513125?accountid=8422, doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.auctr.edu/10.1598/JAAL.54.5.5.