Writing Is Creating Meaning
The wonderful thing about writing is that, contrary
to popular belief, meaning is constructed as a result
of writing not something worked out before you begin.
Writing isn't the transcription of pre-existent knowledge;
every episode of writing requires an active construction
of new meaning.
Purpose & Audience
You may not know the purpose of a particular piece
of writing at the outset, although with most technical
and business writing you usually have some general
purpose as well as a specific or generic audience
in mind. Whether you're writing an email or an in-depth
technical report or proposal, at some point in the
writing process you need to be able to articulate
succinctly the purpose of a given piece of writing
and you need to think about the assumptions you're
making about your audience. As writing proceeds, both
purpose and audience will become clearer; by the time
you're done you should be able to say what it is you
want your readers to understand.
Composing vs Revising / Editing
Composing is a constructing process; it's not transcribing
thought that's already in your head.
When you begin, you may have only vague ideas about
what you want to say—it's through writing that
you sort out your thoughts, flesh them out, and organize
them. Only after you've got a rough draft of your
writing should you think about correctness: such things
as spelling, punctuation, and grammar. That's why
writing educators make a distinction between composing
and editing—composing involves developing the
material to make an argument or presentation; revising
and editing are what you do once you have a rough
version of what you want to say.
However, the act of writing really does combine all
three aspects of the process. You will certainly find
yourself revising as you go along—the important
thing is to resist the temptation to make correctness
your focus too early in the process.
Writing is Messy
Writing is a messy business.
I have notes to myself jotted on scraps of paper,
on post-it notes, and on backs of envelopes. When
I'm composing I keep paper handy so I can jot down
ideas that I'm not sure I want to use or where I might
use them. I have piles of reference material all over
the desk and sometimes on the floor—I need that
information handy so I can refer to something if I
I write all over printouts of text; I save the mess
because I never know if something I've thought of
might be useful later. When I cut sections from a
document, I paste them into an "out-takes" file
so I won't regret having lost material.
There are false starts, and I get side-tracked but
it's all part of the writing process. By the time
I'm done, the document has been checked carefully
for spelling, grammar and punctuation. It looks presentable;
the mess is no longer visible. It's because the mess
isn't visible in final versions that we forget that
writing, of necessity, is a messy activity.