Riding (Writing) the Storm

The writing process. We’ve all heard the phrase. Perhaps you even had a poster that illuminated the steps of the process in your English classroom in middle school or high school. It may have looked something like this:



Unfortunately, if you’re like me that process often feels restrictive rather than helpful; most often my thought process is something along the lines of: “What do you mean prewrite? And doesn’t almost the rest of this go on at the same time?” For many writers, myself included, the writing process is less a process and more a Writing Storm—and that storm can sometimes be intimidating. There are options, however, to make the storm less chaotic and more constructive.

One of the things I always do and often recommend to the students that see me in the Writing Center is to have an awareness of audience. Though we can and do help with any step in the process (or at any port in the storm), an awareness of the audience for an assignment is one of the first things I always try to establish both with students and in my own writing. You know your professors better than we do, and considering what a particular audience may expect or be familiar with is often a good way to begin harnessing the lightning. What does the professor want from the assignment? What are the conventions that they may have expressed in the classroom regarding their expectations? Is there any subject that they specialize in and therefore are going to be more critical in grading? And yes, even: are there any biases that professor has on a certain topic that may color their interpretation of your work? All of these are important factors which may affect the way you write.

Another important consideration is that the process we’re taught from early in school on isn’t linear—in fact it’s often cyclical, a spinning mass of different aspects of writing that can take place in any order:



And even that may be too structured for some writers. Much of this can take place as thought without any writing taking place on page or screen. Sometimes, even ‘early’ parts of the process can reoccur later as an assignment develops into a more finished and concrete such as realizing an idea (brainstorming; typically a part of prewriting) that would strengthen your argument while performing minor editorial steps. Perhaps during finalizing a paper, you have an idea for another perspective on the subject; this doesn’t have to mean re-doing what may have been a long and dreary amount of work. Keep the idea as a brainstorm for another related or later assignment. If there is any universal for writers here who struggle to capture the storm or even follow the steps we all know, it is that the writing center can help at any stage of the process. We are here to serve not to revise and edit, but to make the Marshall community better, more confident writers who can confidently navigate the storm.



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