"I work best under pressure." We all have probably heard this statement from someone trying to meet a late deadline. For writers this approach means sitting down to write a paper just hours before it is due, writing only one draft, and submitting it. Such writing is a race against the clock, and there is no time for revision. Writers who believe in this method often say that working fast somehow releases their creative juices and helps them to beat writer’s block. Some even say they deliberately put a writing task off to the last minute choosing to race against the clock rather than to work on the assignment gradually and in steps.
Surely, most writers are busy people, and sometimes we feel that there is no time to develop a piece of writing over days or even weeks before it is due. Sometimes we procrastinate, believing that we can produce good quality work just before the deadline. But such a “fast and furious” approach to writing is much more than just a problem of time management or procrastination. While most of us can write something up quickly, will this be our best work and will the resulting paper do justice to our topic and to our audience? Racing against the clock, are we giving ourselves enough time to let the meaning of our writing to mature, or do we commit to paper the first thoughts that come to mind simply because we don’t have time to develop them? When we work under stress of an imminent deadline, we naturally focus on getting the product out, that text which we will submit for a grade or publication. We simply have to have something written down. As we concentrate on getting that something on paper, we forget to give ourselves the opportunity to develop our thoughts and ideas, to let our piece evolve in our minds. In other words, we neglect the writing process.
In this chapter, I explain how to approach writing as a process. The process model of writing justifies and endorses an approach to composing as a sequence of thoughtful steps, or quite the opposite to the "work under pressure" model mentioned earlier. Writers who take the process approach treat their work as a sequence of necessary stages. They compose multiple drafts; the seek feedback on those drafts from other readers; they revise the meaning of their writing heavily based on that feedback and on their own evolving thinking about the piece they are working on.
In this chapter, we will explore the main features of the process approach to composing and what makes it radically different from the product one. We will discuss what the process model can help you accomplish as a researcher and a writer. If you are used to the product approach because it has, on some level, worked for you in the past, you may be skeptical towards the process theory. In order to convince you otherwise, I have decided included in this chapter stories and interviews by students, many of whom were also making the transition from the product to the process approach for the first time as they worked on the research writing projects described in this chapter. These narratives by students are not always all-out-success conversion from product to process stories, nor do they need to be. Some of these writers struggle with trying to be process-oriented as they try to understand and apply this new way of composing.