Have you ever sent off a piece of writing only to realize moments after sending it that it is riddled with typos and errors? Or ever hit publish on an article and only then see all the things that need changing?
Although we rarely talk about it, publishing our writing, even online, is one of the most powerful ways to improve it. And that publisher’s remorse is a part of the process we rarely cop to. So let’s own it!
Personal Sharing of Vulnerability.
Back in high school and throughout college, I was a l-a-z-y writer. Despite spellcheck programs, despite professional writer parents and an English prof for an uncle, I never proofread anything. My misspellings were and are legendary. I once accidentally revealed one of my writing alter egos thanks to a habitual misspelling. I have even developed the ability to completely see through the red squiggle.
It wasn’t until the blogging era that I finally changed my ways, all thanks to pressing publish. There was something visceral about pushing a post out there for all or some to see. Even just the thought. And it changed my writing for good. Or for better, at least.
And so, I would like to invite us to consider publishing (and its lesser cousin, posting) as part of the writing process. Just as much as drafting, organizing, getting feedback, and revising.
Okay, so is this really new, buddy?
In a lot of ways, we do already include publishing. Marking our peer’s drafts for revision offers one opportunity to introduce that moment of accountability (and hopefully not also crippling fear). A portfolio system often includes submitting a paper to a teacher before the final version. For me, asking my students to publish blog posts regularly in public places also puts publishing into the process. There is or can be a positive panoptic power to the eyes of readers, even if imaginary.
But still, this feels like something new for me. To call publishing a part of the process is also to include something we generally treat as a “showcase” or “final product” instead as a device in the process moment and by doing so we can help students access another part of the writing process — one that can be scary or even that comes with the threat of a bit of embarrassment, which did more for me than red ink every did.
Missed Deadlines as Bell-weathers
As we turn more attention to affective parts of writing, we can also help writing students harness the emotions or confront them if their emotions are providing blocks. When students have trouble hitting publish, we should not remove that hurdle but instead use the moment as a chance to ask students what is causing the block.
I am not saying that is easy, but it is necessary.
Writing is complex. The processs of writing extends long before words hit the page and also involves much that takes place far far away from the writing moment. The more we acknowledge that, the more we can open up for our students, ourselves, and hopefully, our readers.