Blog #5

This week we reviewed four articles on the topic of writing: Teach Writing as a Process Not Product by Donald M. Murray; Failure is not an Option by Allison D. Carr; Rubrics Oversimplify the Writing Process by Crystal Sands; and, Writers Block Just Happens to People by Geoffrey V. Carter.

Donald M. Murry made a strong argument for teaching writing as a process and not a product. At the outset, Murray states that once the teacher comes to the realization that teaching and learning composition is a process a curriculum can be designed which meets that objective.  He then goes on to articulate various objectives of such a curriculum.  He encourages teachers to engage in the process of using language in the process of communicating their views on the world around them.  Additionally, he states that teachers should support the process that evolves during the time that the work is unfinished by encouraging this time period to be an exciting period of exploration with language.  Students should also be encouraged to express the truth as they see it and dismiss notions of correct or incorrect.   He explains that the writing process can be divided into three stages: prewriting, writing, and rewriting.  He believes that prewriting takes about 85% of the writers time, writing the first draft may take as little as 1% of the writers time, and rewriting, which reconsiders subject, form, and audience perhaps necessitates the remaining 14% of the time the writer spends on the project.  He stresses that it is the job of the teacher to elicit the students potential voice and to achieve this the teacher should first listen and then serve as a coach and encourager.  He leads the reader to the conclusion of his article by enumerating 10 implications of engaging in teaching composition as process and not product.  1. Students examine the evolution of their writing with their peer group. 2. “The student finds his own subject” 3. “The student uses his own language” 4. The student should have the opportunity to engage in multiple drafts to refine their message 5. Various approaches to writing should be encouraged during the exploration process 6. “Mechanics come last.” 7. A deadline should be clear to the student after a sufficient period of exploration, development, and refinement.  At this point the student receives a grade. 8. “The student writer is not graded on drafts.  9.  This approach allows the student ample time to unearth their own truth. 10.  Teachers adopt a perspective of waiting for, listening, and eliciting the student’s potential.

Murry’s article integrates well with the concepts presented in Allison D. Carr’s article, Failure is not an Option.  After presenting the negative connotations of failure, Carr states, “What we have failed to grasp… is the integral connection between failure and risk, creativity, and innovation, not to mention emotional and cognitive resilience.”  After accenting that in the fields of medical science and technology research that “fails” is necessary to explore options that can lead to a sought after answer, he stresses that the same is true in writing.  He includes a quote of Ta-Nehisi Coates in order to encapsulate a central point of the article: Ta-Nehisi Coates… “describes writing as a process of repeated failures that, with persistence, accumulate to create breakthroughs.”   Carr’s concluding statement indicates that he would be a strong advocate of Murry’s belief that writing should be taught as a process: Carr states, “it is crucial that the project of developing as a writer is understood as an always ongoing process of learning and discovery and that writing classrooms should be thought of a laboratories where experimentation and question-asking prevails over rule-memorization and formulaic discipline.”

Although Murry and Carr both advocate for teaching writing in the context of a process-oriented curriculum, Murry makes it clear that ultimately the process arrives at a point of evaluation.  In Crystal Sands article Rubrics Oversimplify the Writing Process the author articulates what she sees as the benefits in utilizing a rubric as a tool of evaluation.  She states that one of the benefits is that this method of evaluation, discussed in advance, helps students to know what the basic expectations are which eases their writing anxiety.  She also sees the rubric as a tool that facilitates student self-assessment and one which encourages critical thinking skills.  Additionally, a rubric supports students in effectively engaging in peer review.  As the title of the article states, Sands recognizes that a rubric can guide students to focusing on key elements; however, “several more specific or unique comments on the student writing” may be necessary to encourage students to examine elements that a rubric does not address.

Geoffrey V. Carter’s article, Writer’s Block Just Happens to People is a well written humorous piece that ultimately encourages a writer to enjoy playing with words if or when writers block occurs.

The Writing Process & Bad Ideas about Writing

Teach Writing as a Process NOT a Product

Through out my education career, I was always taught product never process. I will admit that I have the five paragraph syndrome for all through middle and high school (introduction paragraph, three paragraphs backing up your thesis, and a conclusion paragraph). My school district programmed us like robots to write a certain way and to not take the time to actually think about what we would truly like to say or what words would better fit in our sentence.

Instead of teaching finished writing, we should teach unfinished writing, and glory in its unfinishedness. We work with language in action. We share with out students the continual excitement of choosing one word instead of another, of searching for the one true word.

Donald Murray, pg. 4

Murray brings up the point of the writing process in three parts: prewriting, writing, and rewriting. Prewriting is the first draft of any writing process. This is where you get all your ideas done and organize them to create the finish product. During this time, I usually take up an entire notebook of possible approaches of tackling the writing assignment. Next, writing is where you begin to take your prewrite/first draft and bring it to life. However, sometimes while you’re writing, new ideas will come to the surface and you might have a complete new approach to what you originally wanted to write. Finally, rewriting is a process that takes longer than the writing itself. I usually have at least five or six drafts before my final draft and even when I submit my final draft I later think of something else I could of wrote.


Bad Ideas about Writing
Failure is Not An Option

Failure is something that no one person ever wants to come across. How wants to be known as a failure? Why do you ever want to fail at something? Don’t you just want to succeed and succeed only?

That is not 100% true. Failure is good. Without failure, how does one become better? How do you improve on past mistakes? Everyone should fail at one thing or the other once in a while.

Failure represents a certain against-the-grain jettisoning of established ideas about what counts as good writing in favor of rogue, original, attention-capturing, and intentional art.

Carr, p. 76

I find that failure, mainly in my writing is something that makes me a better writer. I always want to improve on my writing and be able to achieve my goals, but how can I do so without failing along the way. Failure is just a nature part of life and it’s what improves a person.


Writer’s Block Just Happens to People

The GIF above can relate to many people, not just writers. Anyone in any field. Anyway, writer’s block is beyond the worst thing that any writer can come across, especially if you’re writing an academic paper for a class and you’ve been procrastinating until the night before and you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to write about.

Despite the fact that writer’s block can be a real big pain and delay your writing process, it can also be a good time for you to just free write and have random and amazing idea just flow throughout the paper. Geoffrey Carter suggests,

It might be useful to experiment with playing with names to get one’s writing process underway. It’s simple. By looking at your own name and the names of others, we might find puns and anagrams to help move writing along.

p.101

I used to feel annoyed with everyone else about writer’s block, but now it’s just another brainstorming process to create the masterpiece that’s always been inside you.