When we discuss the writing process, sometimes my students seem a little overwhelmed. We start by talking about all of the different ways that we write in a day, everything from text messages to professional emails to research papers.
So when we then start talking about the potential steps of the writing process (brainstorming, outlining, drafting, feedback, revision, more feedback, more revision, etc.) some of my students get wide-eyed with horror: “I’m supposed to make an outline for a text message!?”
I’ve found the tool shed metaphor to be helpful.
I tell them that this class isn’t designed to give them a formula for writing. I can’t come in and say “If you brainstorm for 15 minutes, outline for 20, draft for 20, get 30 minutes of feedback, revise for an hour, and then edit for 10 minutes, you’ll get an A.”
What I can do is stock their tool shed. Personally, I don’t like outlining. It’s not the way my brain works. I rarely use one, especially for any short papers. But I’m glad to have it in my tool shed because when I do need to outline, I know how to do it.
I know that not all of my students will respond positively to the visual elements of using mind maps to brainstorm, but some of them will. Not all of my students will get much out of group brainstorms, but some of them will. Not all of my students will benefit from the organizational strategy of cutting out sentences and rearranging them, but some of them will.
And none of them will need all of these tools for every writing situation they find themselves in, but all of them will need some of them at some point.
I want to send them out into the world with well-stocked tool sheds and the knowledge and confidence that if they have a creaky step, they know how to wield a hammer and nails, and if they have a full-on house to build, they know how to use the jigsaw and scaffolding, too.
Photo used and adapted with Creative Commons License from Flickr user alykat.