Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thinking is Writing

While planning out assessment for my students' creative writing, I came across a great statement on thinking and writing in the book, Creating Writers by Vicki Spandel. She cites Donald Murray from A Writer Teaches Writing as saying, "The most important writing takes place before there is writing--at least what we usually think of as writing: the production of a running draft. Writers write before they write" (17, 132 in Spandel).

What a true but interesting comment to contemplate. Often, writers lament, "I didn't get to write today" or "I only wrote for this many hours or this many days this week." But what was going on during the time that you were not typing or handwriting away? Were you contemplating what to write next? A new idea or a new chapter? A revision of something you were working on? According to Murray, this is still writing.

Parallels to the above ideas can be made with a variety of writers. Aleksandar Hemon, a National Book Award finalist (2008), finalist for numerous other awards and a Guggenheim recipient (2003) once said at a writers conference that he doesn't literally write every day, but he reads or writes everyday, and to him the reading is a form of writing because reading informs his writing.

Every writer knows that each writer has his or her own way of brainstorming, drafting, revising, writing down a story. John Lacombe, whose debut novel won the 2009 Hollywood Book Award, has said that he brainstormed and drafted the majority of the plot in his head before sitting down to write, and that this is the process that works best for him, whereas other writers will say that they enjoy sitting down to write without knowing where the plot will go- and thinking about the story and characters during or after writing (for revision).

Whatever your personal case, it's important to remember that thinking, and even reading, can be considered part of writing. For those days when we don't make it the computer or paper, instead of mentally punishing ourselves, we can remember that thinking, reading, and experiencing life are all necessary parts of writing, and take joy in the life of a writer.

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