Part 1 of 3
Writers forget that being engaged in the writing process involves more than just the act of writing. We tend not to give ourselves enough credit for all the things we do, in addition to actually writing, that are valuable aspects of our writing process. Utilizing and being mindful of what I call the “Essential Nine Phases of the Writing Process,” is one way of using our process to support our writing practice.
My take on the writing process allows for a broader definition than the one most of us learned in high school. You remember those standard four linear and methodical steps, “write, revise, edit, publish.” As I see it, the “Essential Nine Phases of the Writing Process” include at first, observing, reading, and mulling (over). Other stages include drafting, revising, and rereading. The end stages of this process include refining, finalizing, and sharing.The stages I present are mostly fluid, meaning that a writer will circle through and back many of them, especially those first five.
My take comes from years of writing and from reflecting upon my own writing practice as well as from years of teaching writing and observing writers at work. These stages are also influenced by the experiences I have had over the years of guiding writing teachers in their own quests for effective instructional writing practices. All that being said, I find that as a writer, these are the stages I go through time and time again.
Let’s take a look at, and reconsider, these phases:
Paying attention to the rich details of our lives can be a never ending source of material for the writer. Many of us move through our days without noticing the specifics of what surrounds us. Did you catch the colors of the buildings and landscapes you passed by yesterday? What about the distinctions among the sounds and scents that floated around you as you moved through your morning? If you observe closely enough, you’ll notice nuances of beauty (and ugliness) everywhere. Pay attention. Close observation requires slowing down or, for those of us too bound to our phones, looking up. Becoming more mindful and aware of the details around you can do much for your creative psyche. It is from these passing moments of observation that writers will formulate images when looking to flesh out a line for a poem, a scene in a story, or a moment in a memoir.
The best way to keep things real in your writing practice is to read. A lot. You’ll be inspired and probably intimidated by the wide range of styles, forms and talents being published right now, so it is best to maintain a mindset of one who is conducting research. Writing is a solitary act, making it way too easy for any writer to get locked into one way of doing something. You have to read to broaden your experience with language, craft, and content. Fortunately, effective reading selections are everywhere, from online links (if you are not using Twitter and Instagram to access reading material, especially poetry, you are missing out), to more traditional hard copy offerings. Don’t compare yourself to other writers either. Read with purpose and to appreciate another writer’s work. Try to learn something from everything you read. In addition to enriching your vocabulary, reading the work of others will educate you in the possibilities of where your writing can go. When you come across a writing sample you like, save the link for later reference. Analyze the piece, look closely at that writer’s craft and their use of language and form. I guarantee you will learn something. You’ll be more in tune with what has been done, what is being done, and what the possibilities hold , so much so, that your own intellect and creative psyche are bound to be impacted in a positive way. You’ll recognize this when you sit down to write.
Another variation of this is to attend poetry and author’s readings. The art of listening is a powerful teaching tool. Note the nuances in the sounds of rhythm of the language, the manner in which the speaker pauses or emphasizes moments in the writing. Attending readings as your schedule allows is akin to reading, although the skills may be different, you are essentially broadening your experience with the possibilities of the written and spoken word, which can only serve to enhance your writing practice.
According to dictionary.com, mulling, in its truest sense, means “to study or ruminate; to ponder.” The “mulling over” phase of the writing process allows you to think through and about your writing. It offers the chance to reflect on a writing idea and your intent for it. This is most likely a stage that is ignored, since at first glance, many writers feel that self-reflection can be done quickly, if at all. But perhaps that is the problem. Not enough credit is given to being quiet with oneself while carefully considering our writing. I especially like the expression to “mull over” because it means to think deeply about something. Trust that any time spend thinking deeply about an aspect of your writing is not wasted time. In our society, there is much pressure to move through things quickly. Allow yourself a respite from the rush. Engage in this deep thinking stage and give yourself credit for practicing a vital aspect of the writing process while you are at it.
Here is to hoping you’ll reflect upon how you move through these initial three stages within your own writing practice. And may each step along the way lead you towards the production of strong, fruitful, writing.
Next: Drafting, Revising, and Rereading: Phases 4, 5, & 6 ~ (Part 2 of 3)