Ah, the process of writing. It’s the hard work behind the face of the product that no one ever gets to see. It’s the seventy two selfies you take before you get the perfect one to post to Facebook. Well, now you get to see my process, double-chins and all. What you will find in this section isn’t always pretty. It has typos, grammatical errors, even unbridled chaos and mayhem, but it’s honest, authentic, and the reason that I am able to present to you the four polished essays in my presentation portfolio.
Before beginning this class, I didn’t really have a writing process. Well, I did, but not a very sophisticated one. No, my process basically consisted of these five things: coming up with a thesis, outlining an essay based on said thesis, turning on the 2005 rendition of Pride and Prejudice, drinking copious amounts of ginger-ale, and writing my entire essay in one night. It had always worked for me and produced excellent results, so I never felt the need to change it.
But I knew that it wouldn’t cut it for this class, not when essays would be so common and consistent like the deaths on Game of Thrones. I needed to be better about my process and consciously aware of it. I couldn’t just skate through these essays like I had in the past. I needed to…revise more. Barf. I have never been known for my love of revision, but I was willing to step into the lion’s den if it meant improving as a writer.
And so I went into the semester with the drive to improve and a conscious effort to reflect upon my own writing process. What I discovered is that I had more to my process than I thought, I just never considered it writing. To me, writing was the final words on the page, not the messy product and half-formed ideas leading up to it. I recognized that I do a lot of my writing in the front half of my process—I ruminate and think things through in my head to try to come to a clear and concise logic. What this class has helped me to do is learn to translate those musings onto the page, and through the process of free-writing, I find that the record of my idea development is much more robust and clear, allowing me to draw connections between random thoughts that before were much less likely to come into contact with each other.
Each of my essays start with this free-writing process, but each looks different. Sometimes I need to engage in this process more intensely than other times, and sometimes my free-writing is integrated into an outline format, but it’s always there. It’s how I find my footing in an essay. After I initially get some of my thoughts together, the next steps look generally like this:
- Find evidence for my close-reading of the text—sometimes this goes hand in hand with my free-write
- Outline my ideas and try to come up with a clear flow to my essay
- Write my first draft, fluidly based on that initial outline
- Receive peer feedback either from a student in class, or from a worker at the Writing Center on campus
- Revise the draft based on their comments
- Submit what I like to think of my “professorial draft” since I’ve come to think of “final drafts as a myth
- Receive feedback from the professor—this is always the most helpful feedback
- If I’m really feeling ambitious, revise the essay one more time either extensively, or just to peruse for grammatical errors, which I did for the essays cultivated in my presentation portfolio
This process is very general and fluid, and so looks differently for each individual essay. I’ve come to appreciate that what works for one essay, won’t always work for the next. And sometimes I just didn’t simply have the time to stick to an “ideal process.” None of these essays were created in a vacuum, there was always an ebb and flow with all of the other responsibilities in my life: other classes, health conditions, etc. But that’s all part of being a writer. It’s trying to find the balance between the best you can do and your sanity. And most of all, it’s important to know when things are good enough and when it’s time to step away and send your work into the world.
I feel that I am walking away from this course with a healthier idea of what means to write. I don’t write for the grade—well, at least I’m working on that; in each essay I write for the beauty and complexity of the idea that made me passionate to write the essay in the first place.
If any of this has piqued your curiosity, go explore the individual processes of each of my essays and see how they came to life. The links to the collections of revisions below are listed chronologically in the order they were written this semester. If you would like to see how my response and corresponding process to each essay prompt evolved over the semester, start from top to bottom. Otherwise, have fun choosing your own adventure. I only hope that I can make you laugh periodically with the tales of my literary exploits.