The how, why and what of writing



How did you learn to write? Not the letters of the alphabet but a composition. Probably a composition about your pet, or the summer holiday, or your best friend, or your visit to some site... I am sure that you wrote one such composition. And you used one of the following guidelines that your teacher gave you.

Structuring Writing 1

In primary school your teacher told you that you needed to have a beginning, a middle and an end, when you wrote your composition. That is, the first paragraph being an introduction, the second paragraph being about the thing that you were writing about and the third paragraph being your conclusion – a three paragraph structure. 

When you went to high school, you upgraded from compositions to what your teachers called essays. This time, your teacher told you to write your essays having a beginning, middle and end. That is, an introduction, a middle with at least three paragraphs and a conclusion – the five paragraph structure. Something looking like this:

My country
In this essay, I will tell you three things about my country. First, I will tell you about the climate. Secondly, I will tell you about the people and thirdly I will tell you about the food.

First, Jamaica is a tropical country. It does not have the four seasons like some other countries. It is summer all the time...(other things about the climate)

Second, the people of Jamaica are friendly. They like to welcome visitors into their homes. Also, they like to have a good time. For example, they like to go to parties, dance, give jokes and just relax....(more about the people)

Third, Jamaica has wonderful food. For example, patties, jerk, and curry. These foods are spicy and tasty... (more about food)

In this essay, I told you about Jamaica's climate, the people and the food. 

In this essay, the writer told us three things about Jamaica: about the climate, about the people and about the food. She told us what the essay was going to be about, what it was about and in the conclusion she reminded us that she said what she promised to tell us.

This essay is structured but not very sophisticated. I hope that the essays you wrote in the past were a bit more sophisticated than this essay.

Structuring Writing 2

Your teacher might have also taken you through a process to get to the product which was your finished essay. That is, she might have spent days, weeks or even months preparing you to write your essay. First, you went through the pre-writing stage where you came up with ideas about your topic, then you wrote your first draft. Afterwards, you revised your draft by tinkering with it. Then  you edited it by correcting mistakes. Finally, you published your essay by handing it in to your teacher. I mentioned this process in a video on YouTube. If you watch the video, above, you'll find a link to that video in the description box. Or you may read about it on this blog.

This writing process has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on who you ask.

Structuring  Writing 3
Your teacher might have also told you that you should have had a goal for writing, a purpose, a reason for writing; that you should either write to inform, persuade, or entertain your reader. And, she probably gave you topics to explore those purposes.

What mental gymnastics took place before you wrote those essays? That is, what happened in your mind before you wrote? Did you plan what you wanted to say before you wrote your essay? Did you manage to capture the thoughts about the topic that ran across your mind exactly as they presented themselves? Did you modify them? How and why? And where did you find the evidence to support your points? Did you review your work to ensure that you did exactly what you set out to do? Questions. Questions, Questions. Part of the writing process.

Structuring Writing 4
As you moved through high school, your teacher probably forced you to tackle issues that you’d rather leave alone: political, economic, social, technological, all kinds of issues. Your teacher tried to expose you to the issues in society so that you could develop your perspective about them.

Structuring Writing 5
In addition, your teacher might have asked you to write letters to the editor of newspapers or speeches about issues of concern in the environment whether local, regional or international. She wanted to draw your attention to critical issues in the society by giving you the chance to critique them. She wanted you to become agents of change in society.

Structuring Writing 6
Finally, your teacher might have removed the boundaries around topics that you could not previously write about, giving you the freedom to write about any type of issue in any way you wanted to write about it. She introduced you to previously uncharted territory in the classroom, such an exploration of nudity, for example, because she was moving with the times – times that we are still in today when the lines between good and bad, right and wrong, binaries, become blurred. Have you embraced this freedom in your writing?

Conclusion
How you write has its beginning in how you were taught to write in school. Teachers passed on to you their ideas about how students should write, ideas that they got from theorists, brilliant scholars who spent/spend their time looking for answers to the questions about how people should write, why they should write and what they should write about.

It is your time now to put all the theories of writing that you learnt in school on the table, sort through them, take from them what works for you and just write.

I have been doing this over time and have written, books, short stories, poems... Watch the video above to hear the poem that I wrote about the political environment in my country.

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About the Author

Janette B. Fuller is a teacher and author of three books. Her business is to write stories set in the place she knows best – Jamaica – while also helping writers to write their own stories. When you are ready to write your story, make contact with her @ writingwisdomtree@gmail.com. Check out her books here









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