Relaying the best parts of writing

Kevin Briggs

One of the best aspects of teaching writing at Gannon this semester is the opportunity to share my own writing process. I can think of no better place to start than a project I recently completed and am defending Monday: my doctoral dissertation.
For the past two years, I’ve been writing a dissertation titled An Exploration of the Lived Experience of Participating in three of Cultivating Awareness and Resilience in Education’s (CARE) Mindful Awareness and Stress Reduction practices, as well as three Caring and Compassion practices. It has been an adventure, to say the least.
The reason I bring it up is not to brag about what I’m doing or to try to impress with my dissertation’s fancy, long title. No, thank goodness it is to reflect a bit on the writing process with the hope that I can relay challenges I encountered during the writing process and how I’ve worked through those challenges.
It is easy to think about the writing process as a magical ride filled with inspiration, downloads from the Holy Spirit and generally a very romantic process filled with passion and intrigue. I think those things happen from time to time, but more often than not it can be like laying bricks. In the same way, once you commence the process your success depends in large part on a few fundamental things: planning, establishing a solid foundation and making modification when necessary.
Of course, planning the writing process has to do with brainstorming and outlining, establishing a foundation has to do with framing your writing in the beginning of the piece, and making modifications has to do with editing and revising. The latter, my friends, is the piece that has taken the longest and that has been the most rewarding. Making revisions is an inevitable process of good writing.
I won’t say if I’ve done a good job because that’s – in part – for my dissertation committee to decide – but I will say doing revisions has been a revelation. I wrote hundreds of pages trying to get to my main points only to slash and cut and tweak the document into a fraction of that many pages. In doing so, I was astonished at my ability to condense my writing, to be more concise and to eliminate superfluous words, phrases or entire sections of my writing.
As a result of my experience, I feel it’s very important to have our students engage in a multistep writing process beginning with prewriting, progressing to drafting and ending with revisions.
When I taught high school English, the students were not very enthusiastic about it unless I figured out how to engage them, which was hard. But, I never gave up, and now that I’m teaching college writing I am pleased to observe how willing and even eager my students are to write and refine their writing.
It’s a blessing. They are a blessing. What’s more, they will progress as writers as a result. One day when the are writing their own dissertations and striving to put their stamp on their field of choice I hope they will remember the importance of revising. If they do, they’re going to do great.

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