I used to think I could sit down, write, and create something incredible. It’s easy enough to convey an idea through words; I speak every day, why should writing be difficult? I have since learned that writing is a complex process that takes a great deal of planning and organizing. It is impossible to produce a clear written thought without having first synthesized your knowledge and ideas.
So much attention is paid to the act of writing because it is the tangible evidence of our understanding. But the biggest and most time consuming portion of the writing process often takes place before we actually write. The initial steps of synthesizing the information you know with what you are researching, of combining questions with hypotheses, and of scoping out which avenues are most relevant to your theme make it possible to organize and produce a cohesive paper.
There are tools, like outlines and concept maps, to aid in this initial stage, but I have found that it takes self-awareness to make these techniques successful. Personally, I know that I feel more focused some days than others, certain topics feel more approachable than others, and even the time of day that I write affects my abilities. An outline is not useful if I know nothing about the topic; a concept map is overwhelming if it is late at night and I am tired. With these tools and this awareness I am able to effectively synthesize knowledge, plan, and organize. Once I have completed this pre-writing process I can sit down and write my incredible . . . first draft.
Peer Writing Consultant, Antioch Virtual Writing Center
This piece was originally published in the September 2014 VWC Newsletter