I’m pretty sure that if you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time, you’ve caught wind of the idea that “writing is a process,” or some form of that. In a metaphorical sense, writing is like taking a journey from your starting point to your determined destination. We don’t quite have apparating magic or teleportation technology (as far as I’m aware), so any journey we take won’t involve us getting to our destination instantly. It takes time and energy to get anywhere that we want to go. In much the same way, those assignments and papers we write aren’t going to magically plop down in front of us. It’s entirely possible that we’re putting blood, sweat, and perhaps buckets full of tears into these papers before they’re good and done.
So when you’re in the process of writing your paper, you’ve likely got an idea of where you’re going with it. You know the big point that’s the culmination of all your hard work that’s going to floor your readers. But what happens if you hit that writer’s block on your way to the end of your paper? What happens if you sit there and think and think until your brain leaks out your ears, and you still come up with nothing?
Ideally, the answer is not “have a breakdown,” because A), that doesn’t sound like a good time, and B), it probably isn’t going to get your paper written any faster. So what can you do, then? What happens when your process, your perspective on the writing approach isn’t working for you? Well, there’s many different ways you can go about it, but one tried-and-true method that I fall back on is to simply ask someone else for advice.
If we go back to that travel metaphor from earlier, you might have a route to your destination in mind that will send you through bumpy backroads, tollbooths, and generally take ages to go through. If you have others with you, though, they might have traveled to that same destination, but took a different route than you’re planning on taking. One of your compatriots could, for example, know a route that will take you half the time and not bump up your car (and mental state) on the way there.
See, people all have their own story and life experiences, and as such can bring different things to the table. So in much the same way as having a different route to travel on, your friends likely have a different approach to writing than you do. That can include how they structure their writing, their style, the way they go about thinking of how to put their ideas on paper, things of that nature. So, by getting advice from your peers, or getting a study group together, you can bounce ideas off of one another, see what works for you and what might not work for others. It doesn’t have to be as complex as cross-analyzing the writing styles of everyone involved, of course. It can be as simple as just asking for input on what you’re currently writing and getting advice. By doing something as simple as talking with your friends, peers, tutors, whoever, that paper that originally looked like a monster to write could potentially turn into a cakewalk.
For example, I was working with a group of friends recently, and one of us was having trouble with a paper describing the importance of her career. She had the academic, researched portion of the paper hammered out without any issue, but she just couldn’t seem to explain why her job was important from a personal perspective. The rest of us just asked her why she does what she does, and she rattled off her reasoning, saying that she cared for the kids that she worked with, and that if she didn’t do the job, someone else who might not give quite as adequate care to them might be in her position. “There you go, then,” I said. “Write that down.” She just looked at us for a second, and then got to typing, realizing that she had something to work with now that she might not have realized in working by herself. To her, she hadn’t thought about simply writing out what you vocalize, which to the rest of us was a concept that we were very familiar with. In that sense, being able to think about her process of writing from our perspective made an otherwise mind-numbing task far easier for her.
That’s only one example, of course. As everyone has their own experiences with writing, there’s a near-infinite amount of ways that you and your peers can open each other’s eyes to different perspectives and techniques for writing. So if you have a daunting project on the horizon, or perhaps just a journal response that you can’t quite tweak just right, why not grab a friend (or a Writing Center tutor)? Who knows, you just might come out of it with a better idea than before, and you’ll probably find the writing process more enjoyable than going solo, as well. The more, the merrier, right?