Prewriting Practice

I’m  going to confess a deep, dark secret.  I never pre-write.  No outlines, lists, nothing.  On blue book exams, I’ll sometimes go back and write a little outline after finishing the essay, so the professor would think I followed the proper test taking protocols.  The proposals I have written for the last few papers are the closest thing to pre-writing I have done in a long time.  I’ve always just preferred diving right in to writing, messing up a few times, then discovering what I really want to say.  Even in middle school when the hamburger essay had to have an outline, I hated the process.  I didn’t understand why I was spending valuable time on bullet points when I could be getting the real words on paper. I didn’t want to waste good ideas on planning, I wanted to see if they would work right away.

So maybe out of habit I stopped planning my pieces, and instead wrote by trial. As topics became more difficult and risky, I developed a process where pre-writing and outlining fell somewhere in the middle stages of writing.  After a shitty first draft, I’ll try to rearrange and rewrite. What emerges is a bunch of ideas, experiments, and bullet points that in some parallel universe may be the type of planning the New Jersey public school system always wanted me to do.  It has worked for me so far, but now with the re-mediation I wonder if it is time to try something new.  My proposal is to create the social media platform of the SuperPac I’m writing about in the re-purposing.  Because it will visual and the writing will have to be in a specific format, I think another approach may help. This may be my chance to break my normal writing cycle and discover a new way to approach my work.

Pixar storyboard

A story board just makes me think of something like the picture above.  It wasn’t apparent to me how a series of illustrations could translate to an essay. But a visual, multi-format, media driven project? That might be closer.  After talking to Shelley a little more about what this pre-writing would entail,  I decided a story board of sorts will be how I start the re-mediation work.  The way I’m thinking about it is that each media platform I’m considering including would have its own page (or panel).  This could include a sketch of what I want it to look like, different ideas and arguments that will be included, and examples to serve as good models.  I imagine it turning out as a vision board of sorts.  This will hopefully help me see what I need to accomplish, and what I want the project to convey, more clearly. Especially considering the formats I’ll be using aren’t conducive to my preferred method: just sitting down as typing.

This will all be going down in the next couple of days, so wish me luck.  We’ll find out if this goes as well as the 6th grade outline, or if it’s the start of a new way to approach writing. 

4 thoughts to “Prewriting Practice”

  1. You sound like you like writing “shitty first drafts” which is something that I think some people can’t embrace. I like diving into writing too, but I think it helps me to jot some ideas down, so I have a general idea of what I want to say. I don’t know if you tried it, but creating a sketch draft is similar to pre-writing, but more flexible! It’s not as “limiting” as an outline.

    Creating a storyboard seems a little daunting. Like most new things, I don’t know where to start, but I’m glad that you’re diving into it! Like you said, it might be a new way you approach your writing from now on.

  2. Wow, Julia!
    As someone who always NEEDS to have an outline, or notes sketched out before I go into any piece of writing, your habits really scare me. I’ve incorporated a “brainstorming” stage on my papers since last semester and it has help me have less a freak out when it comes to writing than semester’s past.
    I think it’s really interesting how you understand what your lack of pre-writing does to your actual writing, and am really excited for you to try either the sketch draft or storyboard. Instead of pulling all your ideas from your head, you’ll be able to reference your pre-writing, which will be filled with ideas already and give you a boost of confidence as you go forward with your actual writing.
    Good luck, girl!

  3. Julia,

    I can totally relate to hating outlines. For a long time, I completely avoided them. Even now, I irrationally justify trying to avoid them at all costs. Like you said, it just feels like unnecessary work that could be spent productively working.

    But, though having an outline can lengthen the time spent on a first draft, it significantly cuts the time spent on a final draft. In a lot of writing scenarios, forcing yourself to abstractly construct what a piece will look like causes you to see the flaws. If I have a point I want to make, envisioning what it will look like is kinda like a pass or fail test. Either I can tell that it makes sense or something is wrong and I need to fix it.

    Applying this idea to your pre-write idea makes a lot of sense. For you, your social media platform is a little more high-risk than an essay. It’ll take a lot more effort to create something and realize you don’t like it than it would to write a paragraph. So I think your sketches are a really good idea. If you don’t like how something’s colored, you can color over it. If you don’t like how something is sketched, you can re-sketch it. I think, therefore, this approach will save you a lot of time and energy. Good luck!

  4. I cannot agree with you more about prewriting. I absolutely hate it. I find it much more effective to write freely and structure as I go than going back and forth between a preset list of thoughts. I’m glad to know that I am not the only person who felt that that whole process was unnecessary and frustrating. I think its a great idea to come up with a prewriting process that works best for you, especially since your essay has so many different ideas and moving parts within it. Good luck getting to work on it!

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