Whilst exploring the interwebs and avoiding my homework, I stumbled upon this quotation by American author James Patterson:
I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across the table from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.
I find Patterson’s quotation to be especially valuable because he normalizes the act of storytelling. When I sit down to write, alone with a Microsoft Document, I often forget that storytelling is an everyday occurrence, central to my interactions with those around me. I tell stories when I rave about my eccentric professors to my parents, and I tell stories when I lament to friends about my unrequited love for the barista at the local Coffee Bean. Believe it or not, academic writing also has a place in my everyday life. Essay writing is typically rooted in argumentation—which is certainly a daily affair. I construct arguments when I claim that Jess Mariano is the best love interest in Gilmore Girls and when I declare In-N-Out to be far superior to Five Guys.
What makes writing our stories and arguments so intimidating is the formality of it all. When we express our words through ink, it all seems so final, so absolute. In order to bring some normalcy into the writing process (and to relieve you of the pressure of getting the words right on the first try), I would suggest beginning your writing project with these everyday methods of storytelling and argumentation. For instance, you can discuss your ideas with a friend (or better yet, visit the counselors here at WSP!)
Or you can do a freewrite. I would suggest setting a timer for about ten minutes and writing all of your thoughts on the subject without stopping and without editing along the way. Think of it as having a free-flowing and organic conversation. The quality of the writing is not important during this activity. However, the uninterrupted expression of your ideas is crucial.
After you’ve gotten your ideas down, you can develop them further and begin to find the most effective way to articulate them through (several) revisions and edits. But I would strongly urge all of you to allow yourself to express your ideas freely, to give them a chance to unfold, before reshaping them into a polished piece. I call this activity, “Freewrite, then Rewrite.”
Good luck to you all! Happy writing!
Post freewritten, then rewritten by JoAnna