Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College


Step one: The shoes come off. This is mandatory, no matter where I am. If I’m wearing sandals, I’ll even carry socks around with me, to keep my feet nice and warm while I write. Don’t ask me why, but this step is seriously essential to my productivity.

Step two: I make the messiest outline you’ve ever seen. When I start writing, I have this feeling that I have to get all my evidence and ideas down on paper as fast as I can, or something will get lost along the way. I call this part word vomiting, because it is seriously not pretty. Once I've written everything down, I can start figuring out what my argument is. This is where I do a lot of cut and pasting until there’s some semblance of a logical structure, and voilà, something that could generously be called an outline has emerged.

Step three: My messy outline grows up to be a messy rough draft. I’m not going to lie, sometimes this part is primarily me removing the bullet points from my outline. The goal here is to simply have everything in paragraph form, no matter how crappy the writing is at the moment.

Step four: Sculpting! The last (and longest) part of my writing process is turning that awful mess of a rough draft into something slightly more sophisticated. I’ve always thought of this part as similar to sculpting, because I go over and over what I’ve written, cutting down my rambling sentences until the paper takes the form I’m been picturing in my head. I read through my paper again and again, clarifying and specifying and polishing, until I’m happy with it (or have run out of time, depending on how badly I procrastinated).

Step five: I put my shoes back on. 

  • Teresa Kline