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What's Your Process?

Each of us has a particular way of doing things and the older way we get, the more set in our processes we become.

This is particular to the case of writing. Every person, writer or not, has a way of accomplishing tasks that he or she may or may not be aware of.

As a writer myself, I have become acutely aware of what makes me tick in that capacity, but it wasn't without careful reflection and focus that I realized the steps that help me to write the posts and books you read.

Helping others discover their processes or helping them create one if one doesn't already exist, is the task of any teacher.

Recently, I was asked what my process is for writing and I realized I'd never had to articulate it for anyone else before. And although I may know what I need to be successful as a writer, not all people do.

So here are some tips to consider as you try to articulate or develop your own process:

  • Consider where you work best, location is a key element in understanding your process. Are you the kind of person who likes to work in the library or other quiet places or do you like to be around people? Do you prefer your bedroom or other familiar places like a living room?

  • For me, I'm partial to my living room table or desk at work but in public spaces, I have always felt more comfortable on the floor.

  • What makes a space work for you? Is it the noise level? Comfort? Do you prefer to work at a desk or on the floor? What makes it a good space? I have never been able to focus in really noisy spaces, which is why I don't choose a Starbucks or a public space for work. I like quiet most of the time, but some music or movies that I'm familiar with are sometimes not distracting. For example, I can listen to a Harry Potter movie in the background and it won't be distracting at all, but I can't have something I've never seen in the same capacity.

  • Know what time of day you work best. I've always been a morning person, so I feel most dialed in at that time.

  • Are you a collaborator? If yes, do you prefer to brainstorm with a partner sitting side by side, bouncing ideas off of each other or does a shared Google drive work better.

  • Are you a planner? Do you spend time actually outlining or planning what you need to write or do you just write and spend more time on your revision? Does it depend on the task itself? For me, it's the task that dictates whether or not I plan. For a blog post, there isn't much planning beyond a headline and an idea, but for a book, I like to use the table of contents (TOC) as an organizer for each chapter. I often set time aside and then I set small goals for myself to make sure that the work gets done. Sometimes the writing happens faster than other times. I've learned to tap into those times and capitalize, but other instances take real effort.

  • Once ideas are on the page, do you need to take a break? Most writing does require some kind of separation to be able to experience fresh eyes on the work. Being too involved with any one piece of writing can make the author less capable of recognizing mistakes or areas that need clarification. Personally, I feel at times like I've explained something clearly because I know in my head what I want to say, but actually, there are holes that I can't account for. Combatting this challenge is easy enough with a peer reviewer who can review what I've written looking for specific elements that I've asked them review for.

  • Do you have a favorite beverage or food that makes you feel centered? I enjoy coffee and water and having them both motivates me.

  • Do you need to take a lot of breaks working hard for short periods at a clip or do you work deliberately for a period of time until the task is complete? Setting goals can be really helpful on writing projects that allow me to feel like taking a break is warranted. Like while reading, I set big goals and intermediary goals that help propel me forward, especially on larger projects. With a book, it may be the chapters that are goals or sub-heads, but with a post, it's making sure I'm set for scheduling pieces for the week.

  • There is no one right way to do anything, but there is a best way for each of us. Learning ourselves well enough to know what that process is and being able to articulate it is essential for future replication and success. So as you work on your next task, try to be conscious of your steps. Reflect on what works and what doesn't work and see if it can be replicated over time.

If you're working with students, observe what works for them and if they can't see it themselves, make sure to point out what you notice. This process isn't as obvious to everyone. It can be scaffolded with a bunch of questions, so make sure to help your learners see what helps them do their best.

What works best for you when you want to write? Please share

This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in July 2016


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