The Writing Process

Peter Elbow on Writing


Learning From Failure
Keeping a journal that records your personal writing experiences - successes and failures- may be very insightful.

Making A Mess
Often the best writing comes from chaos. You should give yourself permission to ramble in early drafts in order to discover what you wish to say.

Creating And Criticizing
Free write to generate ideas first.

Become critical, logical, or negative as you review what you've written, not hesitating to shape or discard material.

Sowing Early Seeds
Rather than waiting for a bolt of creative lightning, try writing down ideas in short intervals--fifteen minutes or so. Do this frequently before attempting a draft.

Not a perfect stream of consciousness. It is private writing and may or may not be lucid and organized. Anything goes. Freewriting is writing without pauses.

It invites surprise. You often discover things you didn't know you thought or felt. The deepest insights often come  after ten or fifteen minutes when many of us think we've run out of things to say. Generate a lot of ideas to allow you to keep only the best ones for the finished draft.

You should have a range of audiences, including listeners who understand and are sympathetic with your struggle. Writers should not be confined to "authority readers" or critics. Peer readers bring pleasure into writing. Writing can be shared as a gift and does not always require a response. Most "real world" writing solicits no feedback and often gets none. Ally readers help separate the writing from the writer. There may be response to questions such as "What do you hear me saying?" or "What do you think?" but no evaluations are necessary. Writers may feel comfortable to take risks that may ultimately improve their writing

Use your own voice as much as possible, for it has power, control, and courage. When  confined to writing in the third person -- in writing that must not be "polluted by a subjective voice" or "as if it were God talking"-- you may find this requirement too constraining. Write first in your natural voices and then revise for formality.

This should be your last concern. Because mistakes distract readers and affect your credibility regardless of  your level of thinking, be diligent in cleaning up the mistakes in formal writing. Use whatever resources are available, including Spell Check or Grammar Check that may be available in your word-processing program.