Posted on: July 6, 2021
Even the most prepared student can feel overwhelmed when starting an essay. How to begin? What is the best way to get your ideas out? In this blog, Diane Bennett Durkin, author of Writing Strategies for the Education Dissertation, offers her advice on trusting the writing process.
The best lesson I learned about writing is to “trust the process.” However sputtering are my first words on a project, and however dreary they seem to me, I know they will get better. I just have to use those first efforts to get my brain going. Then I can reread those words and rewrite, and eventually both mind and words are working up to speed. The writing starts to look better.
To get myself going, I tell myself that just “thinking,” without writing, means that the words just circle in my head and never get out of my head. In putting words down, I sense how words create their own energy. I have to be energetically thinking, on-the spot, just to get any old words down. And then those words provoke me to think again. And onward we go. I can’t plan it. I can’t know in advance, fully, where the writing will go or how it will take shape. But I like the feeling of not fully knowing but trusting.
I still use plans, goals, pre-thinking, conceptualizing. But a lot of writers get stuck there. Writing the first sentence may be the hardest. It means I have committed to the process. It means facing that my ideas may not sound as “smart” on paper as they do in my head. Maybe my ideas will lead nowhere. And I know I may fervently dislike what I first write, and so I will be creating a lot of stress for myself. Here is where trust really matters. I know that I have words and thoughts and that these have to gel over time. So I trust that I will think through my words. My book has a mantra: Writing is not the aftermath of thought, it is thought. So if I really want to think, then I need to write (and rewrite and rewrite again).
I try not to confuse revision with editing, and so short-change the process (and myself). Rather, revision is “reseeing.” And I remind myself that writing is not a “skill” that one acquires and then simply applies to different tasks. Writing for me is something I engage in to get clarity, and I have learned to trust the process enough to keep at it until I do.