How Writing Leads to Thinking

At the heart of the argument, I agree. Writing can be stressful, and it is certainly time-consuming. Also, given my pages and pages of outlines which are usually longer than the actual essays, I enthusiastically concur that my writing forms my thoughts as much as my analysis shapes my paragraphs. However, I disagree with both of her rules.

The first rule, to me, simply seems silly. Don’t look at your notes? The purpose of your notes is to help create your final argument. Without them, you’re writing from memory, and while in the best of circumstances you can plug the loophole with a clever counterargument, in truly sophisticated arguments you may not be afforded that luxury, instead having a single misremembered detail unravel your argument until it implodes into a rhetorical black hole. Sure, you can just find the new argument from this point on; but that’s a lot of wasted time if you could have simply scanned your notes before plunging into the deep end.

Which brings me to the second rule. The second rule basically states that you write, write, write, so that you have something, anything on the page, which you can then grow and prune as needed. This is not how I write essays; that’s outlining. I write an outline, and then I write a more detailed outline, and one even more detailed, until I have my entire argument laid out before me. My actual writing only occurs after my entire argument is on the page, after the only thing I have to worry about is the writing itself. What she advocates is to write out an argument and trim it later, however that trimming may eliminate a crucial point needed in later paragraphs or create a complication that further paragraphs must address. It creates frustration that could have been avoided with basic planning and is again a waste of time that is easy to avoid if you just prepare beforehand. Which brings me back to how I wholeheartedly agree with her.

I agree that writing stimulates thought. I never have the argument fully formed in my head, like some cosmic Athena springing forth from Zeus’ skull. That takes working out my thoughts on paper, by writing, and writing, and writing, until some small inkling starts to germinate. Some little caterpillar starts spinning a cocoon from my ideas, and after a long process of rearranging, adding more, and rearranging again, in a spark of insight it bursts free from its transitory home and fully metamorphoses into an outline of my final argument. Just as Hunt knows what works best for her, I know what makes my academic writing click. I think the main point of reading this article in this context is to showcase how someone realized their writing process, and I hope the Minor in Writing can help me do just that and find my voice in non-academic genres.

2 thoughts to “How Writing Leads to Thinking”

  1. I appreciate how you’ve shown the slight ridiculousness in Hunt’s of rules on how to write, an act which is dictated by the writer’s own thoughts, and by extension, their own processes. By describing your system of composition, you exemplified how important it is that people accept each other’s different ways of thinking and writing. I also think it is interesting that while Hunt explains that writers need to understand how writing leads to thinking, it seems your methods acknowledge the beauty in the individual human thoughts more than Hunt’s because you do not write things down with the intention of cutting them out.

  2. I completely agree with your ideas here, Ben! I cannot even fathom what it would be like to write ANYTHING without my notes. If you neglect your notes, you throw away the potential that your notes can have, and the ideas that can stem from those small ideas. Your notes are your thoughts; saying “do not look at your notes” is like saying “do not think.”

    To your second point, I definitely believe that an outline must come first. The process is more enjoyable when you take it one step at a time, get your ideas on paper, then organize them, and then write them out in a more beautiful way. This is not to say that you cannot go back and change your ideas once you start turning them into sentences, but outling is a key part of any writing process, and it is a really powerful way to organize your thoughts. Don’t worry – this reply to your post started with bullet points as well!

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