Debunking the Myth of the (Official, Singular) Writing Process
For generations of K-12 students in the US, the writing process has been a familiar part of their Language Arts experiences. Students are often exposed to this process in elementary school, trained early to pre-write using outlines or bubble charts; to write drafts; to revise, usually after receiving feedback from a teacher or peer; to edit, unless they have already done so under the guise of revision; and to “publish,” or, typically, submit final drafts to their teachers. The writing process, with its clear-cut and compartmentalized steps, can be both comforting and paralyzing. When students find success at each stage, they may feel empowered to write towards the finish line. When students face challenges getting started, they may feel disempowered to keep writing, stuck somewhere in the middle of the process. Research has long shown that, while a helpful heuristic, the writing process is actually a bit disingenuous; most writers do not write in a linear, step-by-step fashion, and most effective writing does not come out of a linear, five-step process. Instead, real writers—that is, all people who actually write—have much messier processes. Because we create knowledge and connections between ideas as we draft, writing is necessarily recursive: as we write and learn, we go back and add to our outlines or revise our notes; we move chunks of text around; we draft out of order; we edit, then revise, then draft, then revise, then edit, then go back and read some more, and then revise and draft again.
This quarter try talking to your students about your own writing process. Ask your students to share their processes with the class. Keep in mind the messiness of writing as you plan writing assignments for your class. Though the quarter system requires that we have deadlines and move through drafts in structured ways, think about how you might make space for multiple writing processes in your schedule. For more information about the evolution of and revolutions in process research in composition studies, check out Richard Gebhardt’s “Process and Intention,” a reflection on the thirty-year anniversary of The Writing Instructor, an online journal and digital community for writing teachers.
The full-text is available here: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ959703.pdf.