I always find articles like this fascinating. I'm amused by the use of the term "Weird Writers' Rituals." Okay, they are weird in comparison to a strictly logical process that we assume is the antithesis of "weird."
They may amuse us as we consider the extreme anal retentiveness of the C.S.Lewis-types or the extremely odd writing places of the Gertrude Stein-types, or the peculiar writing attire practices of the John Cheever-ish, the 2-hole vs. 4-hole paper insistence of the Phillip Pullmans of the profession, or the relationships with alcohol and other substances of the Truman Capotes, Dylan Thomases, and, well a boat load of others.
On the other hand, what has always been far weirder to me are some of the things we lead students to believe are signs of good writing when we teach them how to write.
Of course organized writing is better than unorganized writing. And, there are certainly elements of organization that are within the grasp of our students, regardless of grade level, that can move them towards having an ability to organize their thoughts and then articulate them in increasingly clear and coherent fashions.
Brainstorming, researching, outlining, emphasizing the value of facts, experts, and secondary sources certainly leads to better writing than tossing around off the top of the head hearsay (assumed to actually be one's opinions), that have no actual value in articulating thoughts and ideas worthy attention.
So we teach outlining, and five-paragraph essay structures. Yes that writing is "better" than attempts to articulate ideas without any effort to inform ourselves and organize our thoughts.
Ironically, it was one great author criticizing another great writer who articulated this distinction. Truman Capote who said of Kerouac, "That's not writing, that's typing."
Neither author is without his critics of course. But the distinction between writing and typing is not unlike the relationship between five paragraph essays and good writing. Even though the similarity between the improved efficiency and ease of reading of typing and the slow and quite often difficulty of reading clumbsy penmanship is remarkably similar to the distinction between a well-written essay and five-paragraph robot writing.
We like to believe that the five-paragraph robot writing is merely a transitionary phase serving the purpose of moving towards organized writing and leading towards better writing that robot writing. We see this transition before our eyes in our better students.
But what do we sometimes overlook in the "rest of our students." Some actually have quite fine ideas but their spelling or their sentence structures or their failure to include transitions, or to place their topic sentences in the robot writing expected, yet completely arbitrary, position in a paragraph works against them in our assessment structures. Too often what they say is trumped by technical issues associated with how they say it.
Meanwhile spilling all that read ink on a kid's writing mistakes in hopes of corraling the skills that still need refining can sometimes lead a kid to conclude that he or she "hates writing because they aren't any good at it" ahead of their realization that robot writing is an interim skill on the way to becoming a good writer.
This is certainly not to say that mechanics, useage, and grammar are unimportant. Of course they are. But a young writer's blossoming understanding of complex ideas is also important and a kid's engagement with new ideas should not be inadvertently trodden upon while we also attend to that kid's as of yet still unpolished "basic writing skills."
What's weird is not the vastly different writing practices of these successful authors (many of whom could not survive as respected authors without the extensive support of their editors). What is weird is the idea that template based writing leads to achieving goals as effectively as we sometimes believe it does.
The one-size solution is not terribly common among the best writers and that's a lesson we can bring to our young writers.
Via GoogleLitTrips Reading List