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Round and Round: Writing as a Recursive Process
Transcript of Round and Round: Writing as a Recursive Process
The first goal of ENG 105 is "Demonstrate the Effective use of the Recursive Writing Process."
What the heck does that mean?
Let's break it down.
First, let's think about "process."
A process is "a series of actions or operations conducing to an end"
A process is just a series of steps that we go through in order to accomplish something.
There is a process for getting ready in the morning, a process for making the world's best omelet, a process for building a skyscraper.
(cc) image by nuonsolarteam on Flickr
In ENG 105, we are focusing on the writing process.
The writing process is the steps we go through in order to write.
Most of us have heard about the writing process.
(cc) image by nuonsolarteam on Flickr
Also known as:
But, wait, there's more...
"demonstrate effective writing as a RECURSIVE process"
What does RECURSIVE mean?
Think about it like "cursive" handwriting.
The cursive handwriting that we practiced in 3rd grade was all loopy and connected.
Recursive is a way to describe "a procedure that can repeat itself indefinitely."
When we discuss "writing as a recursive" we mean the steps of the writing process can and should be repeated indefinitely.
But, wait, indefinitely means forever...
and I've got a paper due.
How do I get out of here?
Writing as a Recursive Process
At this point you are probably thinking
"Why? And more importantly, why?"
Wouldn't it be faster to sit down, write the essay, and turn it in?
Writing is a lot like thinking.
The more you think about something,
usually, the clearer it becomes.
Remember, Sir Issac Newton?
Writing is just like thinking, with finger movements.
The more we write about something, the more we understand.
Even better, the more we think, and write, and revise, the better the writing becomes. Not only are we thinking about the ideas, we are thinking and re-thinking about the best ways to present those ideas.
In fact, one of the coolest things about writing is that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
Think about those novelists whose first book is amazing.
All the critics go into a tizzy over the AMAZING work of So-and-So-Hot-Shot-New-Author.
He/She sells millions of books.
Ryan Reynolds wants to star in the film adaptation.
Money, and fame, and demands for the next novel start pouring in.
Then, the second novel, comes out. Everyone is so excited for more genius!
Mr./Ms. So-and-So-Hot-Shot-New-Writer spent years, and years, and years writing and perfecting that first novel. Without fame and Ryan Reynolds busting down the door, he/she had plenty of time for writing.
But, the 2nd, much anticipated novel, well, that was rushed. There was less time to come up with great ideas, great dialogue, less time to perfect all those sentences, think about timing, and flow, and audience, and write the perfect first/last line.
Damn you Ryan Reynolds!
But, we digress.
So, we practice writing as a recursive process.
First, we think.
This step can be called "brainstorming" or "pre-writing" or "idea generation."
Whatever you call it, the goal is to come up with some ideas, to figure out what we want to write about.
Then, we start to write.
This is often the tricky part.
Many writers spend a good deal of time staring at the blank page.
We'll talk about specific brainstorming strategies in more depth at another time.
But, eventually, we write something.
And, we'll talk about specific strategies for actually writing at another time.
Usually, we feel pretty good at this point. We've written something. We are satisfied.
But then, we go back and look at what we've written.
The draft is a combination of the following things:
Doesn't meet the assignment requirements.
Sounds crazy/silly/like it was written by a 2nd grader
Is too short.
Too short at first, but then too long.
Etc., etc., etc.
So, we try not to panic.
Then, we revise.
Revision may be the trickiest of all the steps in the writing process.
It asks us to really re-see our writing in a different light.
We have to figure out:
What we did
What we didn't do
What we wanted to do
What we did instead
What is missing
What is good (!)
What would the reader think?
And lots of other stuff
Of course, we'll talk more about revision strategies.
Often, we find, in revision, that we need more content.
So, we go back to brainstorming.
Then, we have to get those new ideas into the draft.
So, we write some more.
Then, we try to really "re-view" our next draft.
Usually, it's better.
Then, we do it all over again.
Eventually, for whatever reason...
you will need to be done.
And, so you proofread.
This is the nit-picky final slightly obsessive step where you make sure all the t's are crossed, the periods dotted, and everything looks like it should.
And you turn it in.
Don't get me wrong. I know this is a hard sell. Writing as a recursive process seems really time consuming, especially when compared to downing a few cups of espresso and hitting the keyboard until 3am.
Everyone is busy. It's hard to find the time.
But trust me. It works. It works so well, that the pros use the Recursive Writing Process.
Sure, it might take a little longer, but that investment pays off in better ideas, better writing, and usually, less stress.
This semester, we will work on going through the steps of the writing process. Then, we will go through them again. Eventually, you will learn to adapt the process to your own needs, skills, time-frames.
Once you do that, you will be able to demonstrate the effective use of writing as a recursive process.