My earliest memories of writing involve the “just getting on with it” approach–no prewriting, no outlining, and no preparation (412) whatsoever. My drafts consisted of mounds and mounds of paper with every single word crossed out and rewritten, using different sizes of letters ranging from microscopic to 1st grade typography. My writing was stagnant and unorganized at best. What can I say? I liked pain.
Then I began to teach writing in a developmental course at a local community college, and I was given the responsibility of reducing other people’s pain in writing. So I had to figure this out and slay the beast. So what did I do? Give me a textbook somebody please because either nobody ever taught me how to prepare, or, more than likely, I was the daydreaming kid that every teacher roles his/her eyes at!
The textbook talked continuously about prewriting. Apparently the idea came from a bunch of Greek and Italian dudes. I liked it. I liked it so much that I came up with my own system. I called it “Page P” and “Page W” (I’ll give you 3 guesses why). It was brainstorming with a twist. Once you finished brainstorming, you had the opportunity to cluster in any way you saw fit. Students actually began to get this idea of prewriting.
The difficulty I kept having, however, was that ideas were being put together with no rime (I don’t know if I can get used to that spelling) or reason. What was missing is that the logical order needed to have been informed by the rhetorical situation, namely audience, exigence (what I believe The Business Writer’s Handbook refers to as context (111)), and purpose (59).
Years have passed since then, and my writing process has evolved, hopefully creating better results. My writing process begins with reading. As I read, I annotate. Once I feel my annotations have reached a saturation point (I start repeating my ideas), I begin to collect them in one place and try to view them at one glance. By viewing my annotations together, I try to cluster them together in what seems apparent at the time. In addition, I take special note of what I consider to be transitional annotations as I see my points/outline developing. Then I write, filling in the holes between the annotations, trying to sound well informed about the topic at hand. Revision then consists of checking for consistency in purpose and audience awareness. Proofreading is the very last thing I do along with formatting.
Living with 5 children creates its set of challenges. My biggest challenge in all of this is finding time and lessening distractions. My writing suffers if I don’t put the time in that it needs. Ultimately, the adage is true: something is done when it’s due, and not, something is due when it is done.
Perhaps, Stuart Greene’s (http://www.slideshare.net/heatherdwayne/enc1102-greene) take on creating frames (what the handbook calls “logical methods of development” (346)) could help me overcome my perception of lack of time. Frames do two things: they help shape the information in order to enter the conversation (making it easier for our readers as well (474)); and, they allow us to orchestrate conflicting voices (Writing About Writing). So if I can develop a frame or logical method of development early, trying to organize my thoughts might not be so drawn out.
Finally, my children remind me that writing is about relationships–the relationships between me and my reader(s), between me and my text, and between my text and prior texts. The Business Writer’s Handbook reminds us of this as it asks us to consider our audience, “What is your professional relationship with your readers…?” (112). Yeah, good question.
Alred, Gerald J., Charles T. Brusaw and Walter E. Oliu. The Business Writer’s Handbook. 10th.