I’ve been writing a lot of essay-length stuff recently. By “essay-length” I mean around 500 words. The funny thing is that, just like quantum physics, at that scale a certain distinct rule emerges. No matter the content – explication, review, entertainment – I’ve found that the length itself defines the requirements.
Oddly enough, though, the method itself comes in different flavors. In fact, there are three different processes, each with three different phases, that I can delineate off the top of my head.
The first process is 1) ideas, 2) outline, and 3) write. This is the most academic of the different flavors. The first phase, ideas, is the most important. Here I would work out the general concepts, with lots of research and reflection, all the while getting them straight in my head. Eventually, this generation of ideas would inform their presentation. This is where the outline would come in. By this time, the organization should be obvious, and so this phase would be quick (it’s only 500 words, after all). Finally, I would write. If I’ve done the first two phases correctly, writing should be a stark exercise of only manifesting the ideas, and nothing more.
The second process is 1) write, 2) organize, and 3) glue. In this flavor, I would spew out as many ideas as I could. Some may call it “freestyle” writing, but it’s not really stream-of-consciousness per se, because I have specific topics I want to discuss. Once I reached a critical mass of copy (which is easy to spot when you’re restricted to 500 words), I would go back and move it around to the point where I felt it created a coherent narrative. Since it’s a little disjointed, I would have to go back and glue it all together; that way, it reads like a full-on narrative and not a patched-up mess.
The third process is 1) spew, 2) buff, 3) and promote. This is a catch-all flavor. As a discrete course of action, it probably belongs somewhere else since it’s not an organizing sequence. However, there is a place in the creative process for embellishment as its own element. The most important part, by far, would be the buffing. In fact, only when the buffing is satisfactorily complete would I then promote this to a public venue. If it’s never complete, so be it. This process, since it is dedicated to turning internal thoughts into public discourse, is probably closest to the pure technical definition of communication.
So, those are my three different courses of action when it comes to essay-writing.
Next question is: what did I use for this essay? Well, that’s a good question.
I’m not answering.