Art Over Science

Lesson 4: How To Find Your Writing Process

Writing is an important communication tool for students and professionals. Many also find it a rewarding tool for self-expression and self-exploration. However, writing is not easy. Many people struggle so much with the experience the avoid as much as possible and others give it up entirely. This is too bad because often there is a simple cure for their struggles -- finding an individual writing process.

Writing is a process of invention and exploration to develop ideas, then time spent drafting and revising, and only then concluding with editing to polish. The single greatest reason that writers struggle is that they do not recognize that writing is a process. They attempt to skip over these steps to save time and instead end up wasting time, ideas, energy, and their will to write. The best writing is accomplished using a process over time -- time to space out each step so the writer can tackle the next step anew.

It is also important to remember that this process may be cyclical for many writers and many writing projects. Another reason that many writers struggle is that while they understand writing is a process -- they are attempting to write without an individual process. Every writer is a unique individual who requires a unique and individual writing process. Equally important is recognizing that each writing task may require modifications to that writing process. Once you have accepted these two key facts writing will become easier -- and more effective. How does a writer go about finding their unique, individual writing process? Experimentation and exploration are key to this process.

The process of invention and exploring ideas for your writing task can be a very visual, verbal, or tactile experience for different writers. What works great for your friend or your boss or your teacher may do nothing for you. While some writers need to write out their ideas in journals, lists, or graphic organizers, there are other writers who find they need to talk it out, and still, others who need to spend time simply thinking it through and find the other methods counterproductive. The only way to know which method works for you and your various writing projects is to try them out.

Drafting your writing project is usually a multi-step process. Writers usually write and revise and then write some more. Some writers find they need to return to invention and exploration before continuing to write and revise. Some projects demand this even if it is not a typical part of the writer's process. Some writers cycle through this process several times while others only a few. Some writers make major changes between each draft and other writers find they do so only in the first one or two passes through the cycle. The more time you give yourself between drafts or cycles the more effective the process will be.

One final and keynote. Editing should not begin until the document is shaped and the ideas presented in it are fully developed. Jumping to editing too soon in the process can slow you down and arrest the development of your writing project -- perhaps fatally. You can catch those little problems as you encounter them during the drafting and revision process but do not focus on surface errors such as spelling and grammar and do not spend much time pondering the perfect word or sentence structure. Most often this will work its way out as you cycle through drafts.
There is no one magical writing process that works for everyone, but there is a writing process that works for each individual writer -- and that individual process may work so well it feels like magic.

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