Thursday, September 13, 2007

Problem Solving

"Writing is problem solving."
-My 10th Grade English Teacher

Ever since I heard that description the first time, it has stayed with me. I have this spot of my brain where it's etched in. It's just above my left temple.

Now, years later, I'm taking a class with Katherine where she wants two papers for every one we write. First, she wants the paper itself. Second she wants a metacognitive paper which talks about our process of writing the first paper. My writing process now is much as it was in 10th grade. I try and figure out a series of problems.

For Katherine's class, the process looks something like this:
1. What the heck is a topic in this reading that I'm interested in? (Katherine calls the answer to this question the "entry point")
2. What do I want to say about the topic?
3. Where do I pull supporting references/quotes?
4. How do I structure this?

My creative writing process is essentially the same, though it tends to involve more questions and allow for greater freedom. Either way, my approach is to think of it in terms of solving a series of problems, the solutions to which will get me to where I want to be.

Then, I show my writing to someone(s) else and they throw new problems at me, which I then get to work on solving. Sometimes this is a shampoo-like process: lather, rinse, repeat. The number of problems I have to solve varies for each thing I write - An Ocean Kind of Blue has few remaining problems, Oracle has big monstrous piles of them - but it's always in my head in terms of what needs a solution.

How about you? What kind of framework(s) are in your mind that structure how you approach writing? Is it/are they the same for all types of writing that you do?

1 comment:

Whittaker Luckless said...

I mostly write by intuition. I start with the question, "What do I want to get across?" And take as long as I have to in order to answer that question. Then, when I've gotten a ways in, I make changes. I realize things like maybe I started in the wrong place, or started repeating myself, but just because I figured out a better way to say what I want, or I'm going in the wrong direction, so the beginning must have problems. Then I'll take things out, or add a bit here or there, or rearrange what I wrote already. I've found this is a good way to write shorter pieces. But it doesn't work so great for novels. Too much detritus to sift through. I've been trying to change my approach and do more planning. Planning is, I hear, a good thing.