I’ve wanted to be a better writer for many years. I have had a sense that it would take more effort than I’d initially want to invest. Turns out I was right. Grad school has forced me to work on my writing. Grad school has also helped me realize that my go-to style is not academic. No surprise to this author or most of you. In order to continue in the program I’m in I still have had to appropriate some skills for academic writing. Throughout this process of growing I’ve accepted a lot of feedback form Assistant Instructors (AI’s), met with them about my process, and where I can improve. One meeting in particular with an AI, Dana Mitchell, was helpful. Together we explored my writing process and what things in my work she felt I could improve on. Coming away from that meeting and other discussions I had with her I’ve landed on what I’ve named my Writing Liturgy.
I am not naturally liturgical. In the broad and specific sense of the word. My church tradition is in the Wesleyan-Free church branch of the family tree. In the past many of us have openly mocked heavy, human-made structure in ecclesiology and practices. I think I’ve come to a more realistic view on structure for church. (Perhaps more posts in the future on that subject.) Apart from church, my personality has pushed back on external structures on my life. In adulthood I’ve realized the value of structure and routine in my own life. I still have much to learn. Now, back to writing.
My writing process was in need of some sort of form or rhythm. What I’ve come up with has helped me greatly. Specifically, my grades have continued an upswing. Randy the competent student is somewhat of a new occurrence. In the past it came down to academic structures that I don’t value and I haven’t found helpful for learning. I did the least amount of work to get good enough grades to be a student athlete and avoid bringing great shame upon myself.
I’ve organized my writing liturgy in three phases. For good writers these will seem mundane. They do to me too. But when I am in the middle of a school term, picking up my sons at two different times, running them to soccer and Tae Kwon Do, going to classes, meeting classmates for group projects, reading, more reading, driving for Lyft, caring for my wife… etc. etc. etc. Having something written down that I can return to helps reduce stress in the midst of chaos. I don’t have to think what to do next, I’ve already done that work and follow my structure. It’s my frame, so I can tweak it as I need to. It’s really helpful to have a simple, mundane structure to hold my process.
Phase 1: Information Gathering. How I record the information changes for me every term and even sometimes throughout the term. I either type notes in a document, mind map, and/or underline in the book or article. I pay attention to what speaks loudly in the text I’m reading. How I record this is up to my mood and energy level. Going back to these notes has been helpful when I feel lost.
Phase 2: Free Writing. I go wherever my mind and heart takes me. Sometimes I discard most of this. That’s just how it goes.
Phase 3: Development. This is where the writing begins to take shape. It begins to resemble a paper at this point. I work on conforming to the prompt given by the professor. I actually copy the prompt into the document so it’s close. When I’m nearing the end I have someone look at it. I read it out loud to myself. Reading out loud has been especially helpful.
I have also made this process a spiritual one. That’s why calling this a liturgy is so appropriate. When I sit down to work I quite myself. I ask God to guide my thought and help me focus. When I’m done with a work session I prayer prayers of gratitude for what was accomplished. If staring at the screen was the only thing I did, I try to be grateful that I tried. When I walk across the classroom to turn the paper in I thank God for helping me through the process. Reminder: Most of the work I’m doing at the Seattle School is personal in nature. So these papers are an important part of my own development. So when I turn in a paper it’s the benediction of the liturgy.
That was an overview of my writing liturgy. I’m sure I’ll continue to tweak this frame as time goes by. I’m glad to have stumbled on this process. I hope you’ve gleaned something from my journey.
Thanks for stopping by. Be uncommon.