When you were a kid in school, in all likelihood, you were assigned to use the writing process and you hated it. Your teacher preached on about the immense uses of brainstorming and planning and drafting.
You went through the motions but cared not an ounce about those steps you took, because seeing the big picture of how challenging that writing can be and how hard that writers work to perfect their crafts was unreal to you.
Your eye rolls spoke volumes, and in many ways, you were right. Until you have had a personal investment in your writing, making the connection between the reasons to use the writing process and how significantly it can change your writing can be unclear. To a young student, every step of the process can feel like drudgery.
I get it. I really do. I did not understand the purpose of importance of the writing process until my sophomore year in college. All through my high school classes, teachers had forced us to fill out outline, add details to graphic organizers, write out a rough draft, and so on. It really did not matter a twig to me. I truly believed that my writing was fantastic in a rough draft, that I did not need to plan or edit or revise, and that things would work out just fine if people would just leave me alone.
Then it happened. In my sophomore year of college, I sat in my apartment working on a paper. I got up to page three or four, which in those days was a bit of a challenge in itself. I did not have a computer; instead I had a new-fangled word processor which allowed me to type and print two pages at a time. So I had to type the two, print them, delete them from the processor, then move onto the next two. Most of my papers were ten or more pages long, so this was quite a chore.
I got up to page three or four and the inevitable happened. I took a little break and read over my essay. It was a right mess. I had ideas cross crossed, this way and that, and completely mixed up. My paper was a disaster. How could this have happened? I got into college and I had completed a year of classes already. I must be a competent writer and be able to turn in a decent essay. I took a second look over the essay to figure out where I had gone wrong: my thesis statement was missing, my introduction was more of a diatribe than an overview of topics, and the body paragraphs brought up details to support that had never been mentioned in the beginning; there was no way this paper would cut it.
I crumpled all my bits of paper and threw them into the bin. Time to start off fresh. My method of wandering aimlessly into an essay had backfired, and I could no longer depend upon my inner genius to produce high-quality, A-earning essays. Instead, I would look to an old enemy, make amends, and start anew. Somehow, the writing process and I needed to find a way to get along.
I flipped through my writing manual, and there it was in black and white: The Writing Process
The memories came flooding back: going through the motions of the writing process but not connecting how challenging that writing can be, hearing my teachers talk about the importance of organization and planning, and the thoughts that I would never use any of this.
With a determination to make up for my mistakes, I started over. Within a few hours, I had a brand-new paper. It was one that made sense, it stated a strong thesis statement, it included intelligent fact-driven support, and it followed a logical flow from introduction through body into support. Now, I had a paper that I could be proud submitting for a grade.
After that experience, I used the writing process with every piece of writing: every essay, research project, blog post, letter, and memo. Even if I am whipping up a quick email to send my boss, I grab a sticky note to plan out my thoughts and take the time to edit for errors before hitting the Send button.
As a young writer, the writing process did not make sense to me, because I did not realize how challenging that writing can be. Once I recognized my need for organization, planning, and editing, I applied it right away and have ever since. I can attest to the magic that the writing process brings to writing, how simple the process is to apply, and how much calm and confidence that it can bring to a writer of any genre: essay, research project, blog, or short story.
Check out these videos on the writing process to review each of the steps:
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