Writers, Readers, Purpose, and Standard Practices:

Understanding the Writing Process

Writers communicate with readers. They explore ideas regarding a subject and share those ideas with an audience.  The reader and writer are connected to the subject through text.  These elements are linked by a letter, essay, memo, novel, or poem, a form chosen by the writer.

Writers select style and content to fit their audiences and purposes.  We present a subject differently to accommodate different audiences and achieve different purposes.  We do not use the same language to explain a subject to a child that we do to explain to a senior business executive or even to a close friend.  Though the subject matter of an autobiography may be similar to that of a personal journal, a different  audience requires a different tone and choice of words. 

Our writing changes as the form in which we write changes.  Business letters, for example, follow conventions, standard practices.  The form we choose for exchanging information and standardized professional practice dictate many of the choices we make in creating a text.  For example, in a business letter, we are expected to include personal information including the date and reply information.  In a research essay, we present information, hopefully in a neutral unbiased tone, and we emphasize information rather than personal experience. Before beginning to write, we plan the process based on the subject, the nature of our audience, and the conventions that will achieve our desired purpose.

The Writing Process

Especially in liberal arts classes, we may begin writing without a clear purpose in mind.  We may know elements of the purpose, such as writing a term paper for an English professor, but we often discover what we want to say as our paper develops.  We begin with a vague plan; we have great ideas, but only as we write does knowledge mix with inspiration. Writing becomes a start and stop, cut and paste, scratch it out process in which we clarify our purpose along the way.

Many people put off writing because they find the process frustrating, or they feel that their ideas should be in order before they begin.  They make the mistake of believing that writing should be a clean and smooth act, neatly putting words on a page.  The desire for perfection stifles thinking, and no matter how clearly thoughts are formulated before writing, seeing them written reveals new angles and new questions.  Fuzzy thoughts become clear as they are written, and the first attempt is a draft that will be polished and refined before submission.  Putting thoughts on paper is the first step.

The act of writing is an act of discovery.  We find insights and perspectives as we write.  Reading what we have written, we see concise, effective ways to present ideas.  We make changes.  We perfect our work.  Like a sculptor, we work with our piece, molding and shaping it until it portrays exactly what we want others to see.