Writing is traveling through a journey.


Writing is traveling through a journey.

Writing, for me, nearly always starts with either a cup of chai (tea), a surf session, or some sort of energy drink... preferably all three.

Next I try to open Microsoft Word but somehow my email opens instead which leads to Facebook, a pile of internet browser windows and next thing I know I'm not certain what day it is. Inevitably panic sets in as I realize my deadline has snuck up on me like a windshield on a bug. Once I regain control, overcome my writing anxiety, and open Word there is a brief "deer in headlights" moment as I stare at the terrifyingly blank and blindingly white document.

The thoughts come slowly at first, like a few scattered drops of rain in the desert, quickly swallowed by the vast parched sand. Soon more thoughts come, now larger and more complete they start to rain down faster and faster soaking my brain. They start to come too quickly and I have to write them down without regard for spelling, punctuation, grammar or readability. I focus on getting my ideas down before any get washed away and lost in the former desert that has become an ocean of whatever it is that I'm trying to write about.

Now it's time to go back and clean up the mess by grouping similar or symbiotic thoughts or arrange them chronologically into a story. Once arranged care must be taken to flesh out the ideas paying special attention to descriptive and appropriate vocabulary that will enhance them while staying true to their original meaning.

I pay extra attention to weaving the sentence fragments together and rewrite them for flow, paying extra attention when leading one paragraph into the next. At this point I'm usually really enjoying myself and I find that I'm suddenly very interested in whatever topic I was dreading writing about. That's when I know the time has come to step away because I get too attached and start to lose my objectivity. It's the exact opposite to how I work on a drawing or painting which is all about laying down a structure then getting to the point where I start to enjoy myself and staying there as long as I can.

Once I've come back I put on my critical eyes and start rereading for overall impact, relevance and continuity. It's at this point that I usually find it's lacking all three and the next phase begins. As I'm making larger changes I consider the target audience, which tends to be other people, so I remove any unnecessarily harsh, emotional or inappropriate material that might be there. Because there is usually all three, and in vast quantities, I find that their removal has usually cut my piece in half and I'm no longer anywhere near my required length.

Next I read it once again, this time trying to ferret out any cheesiness, clichés, "flowery wording", or reiterations. Naturally once all that has been removed only the title is left. This is generally a good time to simplify my message and research my topic. The focused message and new information galvanize my thoughts and help tame my words.

Feeling confident with my newfound knowledge and additional work I ask someone I trust for their opinion, then promptly ignore it. Unfortunately... Eventually... I realize they were right and grudgingly make half of their suggested changes. Once their good intentions have eaten away the wall my ego erected I work in the rest of their changes.

With a sense that its finished I read the work over once more, immediately doubt myself and consider starting over. Then, against all odds, right before I have a chance to "select all" and hit the delete key the perfect first sentence pops into my now beleaguered head. I then quickly realize the rest is not up to the standards of this great new sentence. Fortunately its usually followed by an inspired ending paragraph that ties it all together.

Now comes the most important part, it's time to drink too much, rejoice, watch the sun rise and fall asleep.

With the exception of this paper, my writing has changed dramatically. My former deluge of amorphous and randomly wandering thoughts has been tempered. It has gained clarity through planning and validity through structure.

The rhetorical devices and other new methods and techniques have really helped me communicate my ideas. It has also been extremely helpful to have a systematic structure to compare my writing against. The awareness of how it should be done in its most standardized form creates a very solid base to build upon. That coupled with the extraordinary examples of George Orwell and Ray Bradbury have inspired me to learn as much as I can about the fundamentals of writing.

Most surprisingly this class has changed not only my writing but also my reading. I can see how a writer is setting a mood and what techniques they are using to convey information and emotion. Rather than pull back the curtain and ruin the show this has helped me experience a writer's work more completely as I can now more fully appreciate all the thought and effort they put into their work. Taking notes also helps me focus deeper and the act of writing them helps me retain more of what I read. In addition this has led me to recognize subtle subtext that I would have missed before and has increased my fundamental understanding of written communication in general.

It seems counter intuitive that writing a straight forward structured essay would help with creative writing. However I have noticed that with the ability to produce a quick and solid framework I have more time to spend on developing the creative portion of my work.

A method for organizing my thoughts has also helped me to focus on strengthening my main argument and continuing to support it rather than meander about aimlessly producing nothing but loose ends of unfinished thoughts.

I think most importantly I have come to realize that, just like my visual art, no amount of beautiful detail can overcome poor composition. When the details all reinforce the main idea its message is amplified and it resonates more beautifully than ever before.

-Peter Ochabski