Graves on the Writing Process

Many thanks to our Creative Muse for this inspired relay of excellent advice! “Sometimes writing feels great and floats along and the words seem to choose themselves and the meaning is so clear and revision is a blast. But sometimes writing is muddled. Out of our control. Just out of reach.”

Suzanne Farrell Smith

This summer, I consider my professional companion to be Donald Graves, one of the most influential thinkers in the history of writing instruction. As I prep for fall teaching, consider how writing and literacy instruction overlap, and research new pieces on the writing process and life, I’m reading, eagerly but deliberately, Graves’s 1983 book, Writing: Teachers & Children at Work.

Writing developed from Graves’s groundbreaking National Institute of Education study on writing instruction in the late 70s. There is much to learn from his research, thinking, and recommendations. But my favorite Graves lesson, by far, comes 85% of the way through Writing (p 270). I believe my friends in both writing and education will like it too:

After four years of working with the study in Atkinson, New Hampshire, when all the data were in and the information brewed down to the most important finding, we recorded that:

WRITING IS A HIGHLY IDIOSYNCRATIC PROCESS THAT VARIES…

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