I have written for years. If I had to state an age, I would say I started writing seriously when I was in middle school, writing hopelessly romantic sappy poems to the silly crushes I had then. I remember keeping a journal and writing about how in love I was with boy number 1, 2, 3, and so forth. Ah, to be twelve again. When high school came, I decided to take a creative writing class. I also started to learn the research writing process for a U.S. History course, and found that I really enjoyed the work.
Fast forward to college years, and my writing has improved drastically in many areas. I even discovered that I started developing my own process. As I type that sentence, I think to myself… wow – my own personal writing process. Well, to tell you the truth, we have never thought about it until we started discussing it during a graduate course I completed last year. I have always been one to write a thought that I have passing through my brain, and sometimes I find it difficult to keep them all together. I am the proud owner of many journals and online blog postings, both on my own blog and other websites. I sometimes cannot stand how my thoughts are scattered into so many areas, but I also find comfort in knowing that my work is spread out. It leaves me with room to reorganize as I go. Refining the thoughts in the attic of my mind is a task I find I do daily, but I suppose that is a writer’s life.
My personal writing process always starts the same way – freewriting.
Reading Writing Without Teachers by Peter Elbow during my graduate studies opened many doors and allowed me to concentrate on the craft of writing beginning with the freewriting process, which can eliminate the anxiety associated with composing first/rough drafts in composition courses. His interest lies with the concept of ‘teacherless writing’ and incorporating freewriting as a technique that evolved into a pedagogical practice over the years. His suggestion for embracing the act of freewriting is revolutionary. The significance of Elbow’s writing, at the time (during the 1970s), was ground breaking. Freewriting became a writing theory instead of a practice.
I do a range of things for the freewriting stage of my process, like writing out lists and outlines, but for the most part, it begins in a prose-type manner. I just simply write. When I compose a draft with the final piece in mind, I start to utilize the outline and/or list I created in the first stage or prewriting. I am a very organized person, so this continues to help my thoughts stay aligned. I often find things I forgot to mention in the freewriting stage, or find that I wanted to say a lot more than planned. This goes right into my revising process, which I have blogged about before.
For revision… oh, I have to admit that I’m horrible about revising as I go. I know, I know… I’m only hurting myself. It really is something I struggle with, but have improved over the last few semesters during my graduate work. I’ve found that I had to improve, or I will drive myself crazy. An instructor of mine mentioned during a class discussion that she knew a person who wrote this way – “perfect sentence, perfect sentence, flawless sentence” and it was painful to write the thesis. Oh, this really freaked me out – I had a horrendous vision of myself doing this and pulling my hair out as a result. That alone is making me think about revising as I go… perhaps the habit really can change, and soon.
For proofreading and feedback, I really enjoy classroom setting peer-review… when people are willing to volunteer feedback other than “this is good.” Granted, in the upper undergraduate and graduate courses, this is not an issue anymore (yay!). I saw this more with my undergraduate degree. When I’m in a peer review session, I hope to help others learn to give constructive feedback – the kind of feedback I would like to read. I am also enjoying the feedback I gain online, through forums, blogs, and websites where I make social connections with other writers. Being a part of a group of like-minded folks certainly helps, because the feedback I receive is always constructive and in a real world setting.
I find my best writing comes when I know what I’m talking about. I suppose many can relate to this. I feel this is the most important part of my writing process. Once I am confident that the material I need to cover while writing a paper, I know I can turn into a well-developed piece. Regarding research or essay writing, I prefer to start early and get my information, so I can dig deeper as time passes before the due date. I will admit that even thought I get a head start on working, I tend to be a huge procrastinator. This is good and bad for me, personally, in many ways. Starting with the bad, of course it is never a good idea to wait until the last-minute to put together a well thought out piece. For me, this is good, because it gives me time to prepare and think out the process. I throw together everything at the last-minute often, unfortunately, but I guess admission is the first step to recovery. When I sit down and write the entire document in that one sitting I find my writing flows better and I feel like I get my points across more efficiently. I have always made the grade, so I had never really had any reason to improve on this habit.
I normally like to write “off the cuff” when working on a paper, essay, poem, or anything I produce. I do find my best work comes when I am not pressured to make something flow from my pen. When it comes to research writing, or writing based on something I have read, it is much different. I begin to take notes – jotting them down in the margins of the texts, or even littering my pages with Post It notes. I find it better to write in one of the many notebooks I have in my possession dedicated to writing creatively. When writing something for pleasure, I tend to surround myself in comfortable settings, and just simply start writing. I normally do copious amounts of free writing at first, to see what is really on my mind at that very moment.
I have always felt I have a lot of room to improve at producing introductions, thesis statements, and conclusions. The body of the draft is the only part I feel the most confident with. I move things around often while working on the body of a paper, utilizing my organizing process to have my paragraphs flow together. Another piece of the puzzle I feel I need to keep working on is dialogue. I never feel good about the dialogue I write, but when others read and give me feedback, it’s always positive. The more I write, the more I improve. I just have to stick with it.
I feel I can never learn enough about writing. The thing that brings me the most happiness is that I am constantly learning about myself and my ways with writing. Being a Student Writing Consultant for the University Writing Center at IUPUI has changed my writing for the better. I find I look at my own documents as a tutor would, and that has helped craft so many of my pieces into something worth reading. I can be whatever I want to be, on paper, or I can get a valid point across effectively. It can change, stay the same, or improve – it all depends on the angle you take. The only way out is up, and to me, that means there is only room to improve and advance. Cheers to that!