Too often, writing education is focused on form (structure of an essay, short story, etc.) and not enough on the process of writing. How, for instance, does the process of generating ideas work? Or more importantly, perhaps: How will understanding the process of generating ideas help us become better writers?
Often, when the writing process is outlined in textbooks, it looks something like this: brainstorming, outlining, writing, revising. It is represented in a linear format when, in reality, it is more of a circular structure, always looping back on itself. Form is certainly important, but even if a writer has extensive knowledge of form, if they struggle with coming up with ideas, then they are at a disadvantage.
Process is something that should be of great interest to writers. If we have strategies and techniques to use when we get stuck in our writing, we will be better able to push beyond those difficult moments.
But there are other practical purposes for further investigating the writing process. Are there ways to push deeper into the ideas that we have, to dig beneath the surface idea and to something more insightful and interesting? How do we reframe our thinking to open us up to new perspectives?
Generating ideas is a more complex process than what strategies like simply mind mapping would indicate. Mind mapping is a process of association. By association one idea leads to another. But how do we move beyond a mere association of ideas? How do we generate novel ideas? This part of the writing process (developing ideas and brainstorming) does not end once a writer moves into the outlining stage of the writing process.
I think that better understand the writing process and focusing more on generative strategies can help a writer be better equipped to face the challenges of writing. What is the writing process and what are generative strategies? These are questions I hope to examine in this blog.
I’d welcome any thoughts on this.