Serving students and faculty since 1971

By the time I got to my senior year in college, I was so sick of learning about the writing process. Pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, proofreading. All right, all right, I get it. Do we really need to go over this again?

One thing that we have to pick up from all this repetition is that everyone has a different process. Everyone writes a different way, or supports their writing with different habits.
Some people dive right it. Some people like outlines. Others may free write or brainstorm.

I certainly have my own quirks. I always sit down to write with a hot cup of coffee. I like it to be quiet and I like to take long breaks in between writing and revising and then more revising.
I’ve also been a dive right in kind of person. I never cared for free writing, and I certainly didn’t feel like wasting my time with bubbling or maps or lists or whatever.

Lest you think I think I’m perfect, let me inform you, I did have a big problem. Sometimes I couldn’t write.

And I mean couldn’t write. Like, it’s due tomorrow, I don’t have a single word, oh no, what am I going to do, couldn’t write.

It depended on the assignment, how challenging it was, or if it was structured differently from what I usually write. Particularly rough was a sociology paper where I was supposed to analyze some activity using one of the frameworks we had been studying. Looking back on it now, I should have just gone to the writing center and asked for help developing a topic, but at the time I would just sit at the computer or with my notebook, and sit. And sit. And sit. I suffered in silence.

It was here though that I recognized the pattern. I recognized that sometimes I was just blocked. So I decided to do something different. I took out a blank sheet of paper, wrote down something vague in the center, and I made a map. At first it was awful. It was just as hard as sitting alone in front of my computer, my brain sweltering under the strain. But after a little while there were some words, and then some more, and then even some phrases. Finally I had an idea for my paper and I could start writing. Ah, the joy. The pure unadulterated joy.

So even though my writing process doesn’t involve pre-writing, I now have it in my back pocket for those extraordinary times that I need something extra to help me out. If an assignment topic seems very hard, I may freewrite a few paragraphs to get some thoughts together. If a paper is structured in a challenging way, I may plan a little outline. Most of the time, I just dive right in, like with this blog post. But I have a few extra tools that I can use at my convenience, and that helps me as a student and a writer.

It always starts with knowing yourself and your writing process, but don’t feel boxed in, and don’t be jaded against learning new tools. Writing is a dynamic process and you will be stretched and bent and contorted in ways you just can’t anticipate. Having tools, like pre-writing activities, or even revision activities, in your tool box can only help you. There’s no need to suffer in silence. Build your tool box, have a plan, and keep moving forward.