My first surprising discovery was the amount different tangential possibilities within a topic. I was astonished at how a specific topic can expand to encompass a book, and in contrast how it can shrink and become a very specific essay. The difficulty lies in deciding what is extraneous and where to focus. The pruning process is key to digging-into the exact argument that one wants to make.
The second surprising discovery was realizing how much revision the rough draft needed. The days in between provided a clarity on the topic, and on the errors within the draft. It made me understand that I have to start a lot earlier than my deadlines, because I need to have enough time to put it away and be able to come back to it later.
The most challenging is finding the topic and figuring out what I want to write. I always feel like I need to read and research a lot before I write. This might be a mistake because I get bogged down by the research and I don’t achieve as much as I should, while if I force myself to write a draft, even if it’s full of holes, and mistakes, at least I’ll have something on the page to work with. Therefore, my first take away, is to research less, and write more freely the first draft.
The most critical aspect of writing is the sentence level work. Once the idea, and content are managed, the work that is happening on the sentence level is essential to add meaning, clarity and beauty to the text. No matter how well researched or well thought-out the essay is, if the work on the sentence level is not achieved, the reader will feel disconnected and won’t be immersed in the story.
If I were to teach writing tomorrow, I would force students to have a daily writing routine where early morning new pieces are produced, and then the afternoons would be devoted to revision and research. The best advice would be to always jot down ideas, and to be open to writing.