One of the biggest things we teachers of writing tend to share these days is a focus on writing as a process. Every instructor I've talked to about such things teaches a variety of brainstorming techniques: freewriting, listing, circle mapping (by many other names) are the big ones I use. In first year writing courses here at NWU, we also spend a lot of class time doing on peer editing, having students read and respond to each others' texts.
When I was in grad school, one of my friends who also taught writing was complaining about her writing block; she just couldn't get started writing, just couldn't put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. We were hanging out down in the dungeon where TAs hid, kvetching as usual amongst ourselves. People nodded, all having been in that boat.
I asked her, what she'd tried. She looked at me as if I'd done "To be or not to be" from Hamlet in the original Klingon.
"You teach brainstorming stuff in writing class, right?" She nodded. "So, which brainstorming stuff have you tried?" This time she looked at me as if I were speaking Entish. Everyone in the kvetching circle frowned and shook their heads.
I told her she should try some of the freewriting and other brainstorming techniques she taught in her writing class. And I swear, for the first and only time in my life (and trust me on this, it's not a usual reaction people have to me), people in the room looked at me as if they thought I were a [fill in your favorite expletive] genius.
For some reason, it hadn't occured to them that they might actually be teaching that stuff for a reason. If it's worth teaching, it's worth trying myself, you know?
Me? When I work, I use freewriting and listing extensively. I use them for "real" academic writing, for writing my syllabus, for drafting letters of recommendation, for just about anything more than a quick email. (And, believe it or not, I usually run my blog posts through a couple of drafts. Scary, isn't it, the thought of what you'd be reading now if I didn't revise a couple times.)
So here are my questions: How many of the people who teach writing use those process methods when they write themselves?
And how many of us peer edit?
How many of us reiterate these strategies when working with students in sophomore or upper-level classes? (And if you do, does it help?