On Writing: Reading as a Part of the Writing Process

The more I write and prepare for class papers, the more I realize how integral reading and re-reading are to the writing process. Usually, I think of the writing process as this:

1. Brainstorm

2. Outline

3. Draft

4. Revise

If I do factor in reading I tend to consider it a “pre-writing process” step. While this is a very traditional way of thinking of the writing process, many students (myself included) need to consider reading as a part of the writing process to save time and energy.

When you are brainstorming and outlining it is not necessary to have read through the work/material you are writing on to completion. In other words, it’s okay if you start the writing process before you finish that article or novel. To save time and start get a headstart on your papers, don’t wait until you are done reading. 

Starting the writing process as you read makes it easier to come up with ideas for your papers, especially if your professor has made it clear that you will not be receiving a paper prompt. But how do you accomplish this?

First, get accustomed to annotating your readings. If you print them out highlight, underline, color code, do whatever you need to do to mark up the text. If you have your readings as a digital file or in a book you’d rather not write in, take lots of notes. Write down lines/terms that stand out to you. Note down line and or page numbers for future citations. 

After every reading session, review your notes and organize them according to themes and trends you notice across different readings or sections of your readings. Is there a prominent idea that seems to extend across your readings?

If you follow these steps, by the time you finish your readings and are assigned a paper with our without a prompt, you should have enough notes down to facilitate and accelerate the writing process. What I’ve noticed in my own writing process, is that if I don’t invest the few extra minutes it takes to take notes while I read, I spend a lot more time re-reading material. And, even though I love reading, when I am pressed for time and deadlines are looming near, most of my time should be spent writing material not reviewing readings I should have already completed.

I hope my writing tip has inspired some of you to try and consider reading (and annotating) as an integral part of the writing process. If you try it out let me know how it works in the comments below. Also, if you have any writing tips of your own let us know.

Happy writing!

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