Rethinking the Writing Process

"The Writing Process."

You have heard it before and never found it helpful. First, you choose a topic. Then, you research. Then, you form a (3 prong...anyone?) thesis. Next, blah blah blah, and finally, blamo! You turn in a paper. Writing must be easy if it's simply a matter of following a step-by-step process, right? But writing well is hard. And rarely does the writing process run as smoothly as the textbook cases imply. That's why you have learned to ignore the jabber over "the writing process," right? So, what gives?

No one starts with a few ideas in their head, adds some input from other sources, and drafts a complete ready-to-turn-in paper. Well, at least no one who gets a decent grade on that paper (not to mention avoids plagiarism).

The typical view of the writing process is, quite frankly, misleading. It misses the point of writing. By focusing solely on the steps (topic, outline, draft), writing is framed as a sequence of steps that result in a paper. In other words, the typical view of the "writing process" is just a means of "prewriting" that you do before getting to the "real writing" when you draft your paper.

Do yourself a favor and lose that point of view. While writing is a process, and there are indeed reasonably distinct activities within this process, the real writing process is not just an instruction manual for spitting out a paper. The act of writing, no matter what stage of the "process" you are at, can be a knowledge-creating activity if you just allow yourself to be a little creative and fully engage in the process.

Let's say your paper began as a few thoughts scribbled out, partly in words and partly in sketches, on the back of a used envelope. It might not seem like anything at all useful, but it is! You have begun the writing process. Believe it or not, those illegible scribbles are really, truly important to your final paper because they engage your critical thinking skills and your imagination, helping you learn as you go. One of the primary goals of this Web site is to help you learn to appreciate and take full advantage of every phase of the writing process by viewing each one as a knowledge-making endeavor that builds and expands into a final product that communicates your new knowledge to the rest of the world.

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elements of The Writing Process

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