What I Learned in English 125: My Writing Process

In anything I do, I generally follow two main tendencies: being my harshest critic and avoiding unnecessary pressure.

My writing ritual reflects these objectives, only additionally requiring a quiet space and a large block of time.

Prior to college, I would start the writing process early, about a week before the due date. I would write a “stream of consciousness” type of a piece to get all of my thoughts out on paper. Next, I would take a couple of days to distance myself from the text. This made the editing process easier as I was less attached to the piece.

After following the sequence of printing…editing on paper… printing… editing on paper…etc. I usually ended up with my final piece.

I remember my English 125 teacher, Carol Tell, often critiquing, “Why did you bring this [very good point] up so late? The answer to her question would inevitably, and politely, be, “Well, I didn’t think of it earlier.” This transaction of comments surfaced throughout my first two papers of the semester.

She encouraged me bring these insights up earlier, even in the introduction, and to focus on them more in-depth throughout the piece. She was right, even through the constant editing, my final papers reflected the stream of consciousness pattern that I would write in.

I needed to brainstorm and outline before writing. These aspects are just as important as writing the piece.

Today, it is very important for me to know what I am going to write about before beginning to type. This ensures that I have more keenly examined as many aspects of the topic as possible and have selected the best, and most supportive, sources to add to my insights.

How has this impacted my writing process? Well, as you can imagine, I begin even earlier. I locate not one, but two, large time blocks: one for brainstorming and outlining, the other for writing. While I do not always write out a distinct set of points or topic sentences during my long brainstorming and outlining sessions, I walk away with two main ideas. First, I am actually excited to write the paper in a way that I was never prior to this process. The wheels are turning and I feel as if I am bursting with ideas. Second, I actually know where I am going with the piece, making the writing easier and more to the point. This adds more meaning to my papers and makes them have greater insights.

One thought to “What I Learned in English 125: My Writing Process”

  1. I have the exact opposite beginning process as you do. First, I make the title page, and then I just sort of word-vomit until I’ve got enough content to analyze. After that, I whittle away the garbage (which is most of what I wrote in the first place) until I’ve got an idea to run with for the rest of the paper. On one occasion, a paper I wrote concerning the Srebrenica Massacre of 1995, I finished four full pages before figuring out what I actually wanted to cover in the paper (measures which could have prevented, and will help to prevent future acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Just running with the first thing that pops into my head often leads me to the point I actually want to make, even if it involves a lot of trial and error.

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