This is a guest post by freelance writer, Emily Suess
Before I was a professional writer, I was a peer writing tutor at IUPUI in Indianapolis. And before I was allowed to tutor my fellow undergraduate students in the University Writing Center, I had to complete a semester-long training seminar.
“Right now I want you write about your writing process,” my professor said. “What are your habits, quirks, tips, tools? Describe how you write from start to finish. What’s the first thing you do? The second? The third?”
In the moment, none of us Writing Fellows (that was our collective academic name) could quite figure her out. So before picking up our pens, we gave her a quizzical look. She rolled her eyes at us and asked, “How can you help someone else write if you don’t know how you do it?”
Defining the Writing Process
I started that in-class, free-writing assignment with the words, “I procrastinate.” And so did every other student in the room, as it turns out. Our professor chided us for being so unoriginal and smug about our writing.
She asked us why we all thought it was so cool to procrastinate. None of us had an answer.
Eventually she got me to see that writing was a process that was much larger than scribbling notes in a diary or typing term papers with a word processor.
My whole worldview changed when I realized that reading and researching, thinking about angles, talking about ideas with classmates or friends, and even pulling my hair out were all a part of my writing process. And some of those things started the moment I got an assignment.
For me the revelation was life-changing.
My process—my writing—actually began immediately, not two nights before the 20 page paper was due. “I’m not a slacker!” I told myself.
Are You Really a Procrastinator? Or Are You Just a Poser?
Don’t get me wrong. Procrastination is real, and it can be detrimental to writers. It makes stressful situations catastrophic, increases your chances of messing up, and just generally threatens your productivity.
But sometimes we writers are a little too hard on ourselves. Sometimes we call ourselves procrastinators when we’re not. Sometimes we get lost in word counts and page counts to the point that our obsession with the numbers is what’s really holding us back.
From here on out, try giving yourself some credit for the moments you spend looking for inspiration, for the time you set aside for creativity. Realize that as a writer, pondering equals working. Stop beating yourself up and use your newfound freedom to be more productive.
What is your writing process like? Do you do anything others might find unusual or helpful?
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