Writing To Discover
Sometimes the most important writing is that which no one will ever read. Writing without a defined purpose. Writing for the sake of writing.
It is important not to overlook this writing. Nor is it important to always know exactly what one intends to say when engaging in the act of writing. In fact the “act” of writing is just as important as knowing what to write about.
Shared below is a link to an article from Inside Higher Ed, a website dedicated to academic writing, teaching, and philosophies.
The article, entitled “Writing Not to Print” by Nate Kreuter, assistant professor of English at Western Carolina University, shares an important yet under-acknowledged point about writing: “Writing is simultaneously a physical activity — the product of scrawling or typing — and a cognitive activity” (para. 4). It is as much about the action of writing as it is about mental focus. Doing is as important as thinking.
As many of you reading this are finding this blog entry as part of my COM 510 Knowledge and New Media course I cannot stress this enough. Writing is as much about discovering ideas in the physical act of putting words on a page (or screen) as it is in the thinking about what to write. Sometimes the research is the writing itself.
Some other important passages to consider from this essay:
One of the myths of writing that many of us have become victim to is that we need to have planned out our writing, to have planned precisely what it is that we want to say, before actually sitting down to start hammering out words on a keyboard. Nothing could be less true. No advice could be more counter to how the act of writing and human cognition intertwine. For both freshmen undertaking their first legitimate research project and for experienced, accomplished scholars, the act of writing itself is one of the critical moments within which we actually learn and synthesize new knowledge.
In addition to writing as a discovery tool it also helps avoid the dreaded writer’s block. Often when we are writing, especially in academic contexts, there can be a tendency to feel as if what we are producing is not “good enough” or “not relevant” to the focus of the paper. Kreuter reminds us that it is not that the writing is not appropriate, rather that it may be for a different audience–ourselves.
By allowing ourselves, or forcing ourselves, to generate writing that we know will not make it into a final product, we also open up a strategy for preventing or circumventing the writing blocks that many academics sometimes encounter. Worrying that the writing you are doing is unimportant or irrelevant is a fast track to derailing your own productivity. Just write. Then step back and take stock and sort out what writing has promise, and what doesn’t, later.
Rather than spending time thinking about what to write, try writing to see what exactly you are thinking. You will be surprised at what you come up with. No one else will see these early drafts in the final product, but the final product will benefit from these early drafts. Even if it is just to give yourself a better sense of what you are trying to say the practice of physically articulating your thoughts is an act of discovery.
As if to convince himself of his own discoveries, Kreuter concludes, “the writing we produce that will never actually make it into a finished piece of writing is still productive, productive because it gets us to a cognitive point we could not have otherwise reached.” So try it out the next time you are wondering what you have to say. You may surprise yourself.