How I Write
Kate Burgess, Interdisciplinary Studies, Plymouth State University
Ohhhhhhh yeah, I thought. Co-zy. I got my blanket, fuzzy socks, and warm sunlight coming through the window. I’m ready as ever. Here I go, gonna write some good stuff.
I need a snack. Something crunchy, but not pretzels. Too much salt. I don’t need my breath smelling like a lagoon. Pita chips? Yeah. Alright, now I’m good to go.
That’s how my writing process usually begins. I’m a bit of a scatterbrain at first, but my mind settles eventually, like a snow globe. That being said, whenever I get an assignment, I immediately write down as many ideas as I can think of so none of them escape. Then as the day goes on, I’ll add to the list as my thoughts brew and bubble. This also has to be done in pencil, because even though I am a product of my technologically driven generation, I prefer “old school” methods. It’s just so much more appealing to feel the paper against your skin and to hear the soft scratching of graphite. Plus, I think the occasional hand cramps build character.
When I finally put pen to paper, one of two things will happen: I’ll either start with the body or the conclusion. When I start with the body, it’s because I’ve zeroed in on some important details concerning the prompt. I’ll start with the conclusion if I have a broader approach to begin with before I isolate any specifics. I rarely write linearly, unless I’m working on a lab report where a stepwise method makes the most sense. Along the way, I like ask myself questions such as, “Does this make sense?”, “Why does this point matter?”, “Who is the audience?”, or “How many puns is too many?” This helps me stay focused and reminds me of the purpose of the assignment. I also like to consider the paper from all angles, so if it’s an argumentative paper, I’ll try and include a counterargument or rebuttal.
When I’m done with my first draft, I dramatically shut my laptop and don’t look at the paper for two or three days. My mind is like a stew; I need my thoughts to slowly cook for a few days before I can come back to revise anything I’ve written. The revising process is a lot more linear than my writing process, as I’ll go through the paper paragraph by paragraph, leaving notes, bolding sentences to fix later and restructuring ideas that seem out of place. Once I’m done, I’ll put it away again, and take a few more looks at it before I finally consider it to be done. If I have the time to get peer or faculty feedback, I usually jump at the opportunity, because I know how easy it is to overlook errors in your own writing.
When I’m done writing for good, I’m usually a little bummed. I really enjoy the process, especially on days where my thoughts are fluid. It’s also quite cathartic to empty your mind on paper and to attach a bit of your own vulnerability. Despite the purity I feel when I’m finished, the end of my writing process is still as messy as the beginning:
Alright dude, let’s send this puppy in for submission. Did I just call my paper a “puppy”? What is wrong with me? Wait, let’s not go down that road. FOCUS. Okay, message is sent. That was easy.
I FORGOT THE TITLE. Oh my God my life is over. How do I expect to get a real job if I can’t even remember to put a title on an essay? And I spilled pita chip crumbs everywhere too. This is a mess. Oh, wait. I saved it as a draft by accident. Sheesh, I need to stop overreacting. Alright, adding title and sending for real.
Now it’s time for more snacks.
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