22 Solve Your Process Problems
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22 SolveYour Process Problems This section is about process. My hope is to help you become confident using a variety of writing process moves so that you will be flexible as a writer and thinker, ready with your bag of process tricks to handle whatever writing projects and situations come your way. I’ve divided the moves into ten chapters that follow a typical writing process, from discovering to presenting. But first I want to concentrate on the psychological and emotional side of writing. If you had no writing history, you could probably try move after move without getting hung up, blocked, or traumatized. But everyone beyond grade school comes to writing with a history, and usually that history is marked with scars of frustrations and insults, leading to all manner of psychological tangles and unhelpful habits. In this chapter, I suggest solutions for some of the most common process problems. If you’re generally able to work your way through a writing assignment without crises of confidence or vast stretches of time-wasting frustration, skip this chapter. There’s no point in wallowing in other people’s problems. But if your writing process feels like a blindfolded obstacle race, read on. We’ll try to take the blindfold off and suggest some ways to conquer those obstacles. Solve Your Process Problems     155 Finding an Idea Even if your assignment is very specific—“Write about the practical consequences of this experiment,” for instance—it almost certainly requires some choice on your part, a decision to write on A, not B. And that can be a very difficult choice. Nothing jumps out at you and says, “Write about me!” and you can’t be sure you really know what the assignment requires and what the teacher or boss wants. Most of the moves in chapter 23, Discover, are intended to help you make these initial decisions. Here we’ll take a slightly different approach. First, one “DON’T”—DON’T sit in front of your computer and try to start writing a draft, at least not for very long. Spending an hour or two confronting blankness—of the screen, of a sheet of paper, of your brain—is demoralizing and will make it much harder to get going in any other way. There’s no point in banging your head against a wall—the wall is always going to be harder than your head. Instead Analyze the writing situation (move 1). Look at the key verbs in the assignment. Are you supposed to “summarize,” “report,” “choose,” “prioritize,” “compare”? The task may be simpler than you imagined it; we tend to read the assignment with our worst fears in mind. Maybe you’re just supposed to compare the strengths and weaknesses of various options rather than choose among them, or to explore why a problem has arisen rather than solve it. Ponder what you know about the assigner and the general context of the assignment. If you’re in a class, what have the focuses of the class been and how do they relate to the assignment of the moment? Perhaps you’re writing a political science paper, for instance, and you know that the professor always sees things in economic terms. Is there some economic slant you can take on the assignment? If you’re on the job, perhaps you know that the boss is looking for ways to expand the company and you can focus on expansion potential. Above all, think audience, audience, audience. Who will see your writing, and how can you be sure that you’ll impress them in the right ways? If you’re lucky enough to be in communication with whoever gave you the assignment, Ask the assigner for ideas (move 2). You don’t need to be ashamed or see this as a sign of weakness; frame your query in terms of wanting to do the best job possible, making your paper perfectly fit the need. A two-person brainstorming session can be very productive—if you can come up with even an inkling of a specific angle or interest, chances are the assigner can suggest ways that you can build on that idea. Talk (move 3) to anyone about your task. Someone familiar with it can offer knowledgeable insights, but what you mostly need is someone to listen. Talking it out will help you see your own path into the assignment, even if you get no response from your listener. Finish the sentence “The...

Subject Headings

  • English language -- Composition and exercises -- Study and teaching.
  • Literary form -- Study and teaching.
  • Language arts.
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