Friday, April 6, 2018

How to Notice Your Preconceptions about Writing

Preconceptions are gambles we take on the next writing moment. Preconceptions can cause major problems for writers, whether they're preconceptions about the immediate writing task at hand or about our long-term writing ability. In the previous post, we talked about genre as a common preconception of writers, for example.

To manage the impact of preconceptions on our writing, we'd first need to be able to see them. Preconceptions are tricky and elusive, however; they frequently pass through our mind without our noticing. Lacking a systematic investigation of self-ethos (or the way the self represents itself and its abilities to itself), we are usually at the mercy of this invisible agent. So how do we spot writing preconception?

One method is to try a quick, informal intrapersonal rhetorical analysis. In schools, writing instructors frequently assign interpersonal rhetorical analysis assignments (examining the rhetorical moves of another writer), but we don't typically look at how writers' self-talk is a form of persuasion. 

We don't need to write a full-blown analysis essay: a quick freewrite or momentwrite prior to starting our writing day should do the trick.

In the freewrite or momentwrite, ask yourself these questions: 

* Right now, what are you persuading yourself to do or think about your writing?

* How are you talking to yourself about your writing? What tone are you adopting?

* What sorts of emotional appeals (could fall on a range of positive/support to negative/critical) are you using on yourself about your writing? Are their word choices or images, for instance, designed to make you feel a certain way?

* What are you assuming about your ability to complete the writing task or about the outcome of this project?

Remember that your answers could be task-specific to the piece you're working on today or they could be about your overall, long-term ability and prospects as a writer (or a combination of both).

Freewrite or momentwrite for 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, take a look at what you've written, searching for ways you speak to yourself about writing. Don't judge yourself for hosting those thoughts. Simply make them visible--this will lessen their behind-the-scenes impact.