I’ve pre-written many papers before. But I can’t ever remember partaking in serious pre-writing when 5 points weren’t rewarded for it. I can remember times in high school when I would create the outline I was supposed to have made for my paper well after having finished the paper to merely fulfill my obligations as a student. See, I’ve always been the type who loves to just dive into a paper and would rather spend more time revising than pre-writing. Its no different than how upon buying a new video game, I never read the instructions and pop the disc in as quickly as possible.
For this exercise, I’m extremely glad there was no actual paper. Because with no assigned paper, I was forced to really give pre-writing a chance, and my experience was more positive than I expected. The interesting phenomenon I experienced while pre-writing was that upon finishing, I really WANTED to write this paper. I felt organized, prepared, and that this paper had success written all over it.
Now, its not that I have never been excited to write a paper, I genuinely enjoy writing. But as an undergraduate in the Kelley School of Business, the papers I was forced to write were vastly different than the academic writings I am experiencing through HCI. With much more emphasis on theory, I have struggled at times to apply these suppositions to life-worlds I have actually experienced. This pre-writing exercise helped me break down parts of the literature into ways I could more easily understand and relate my concrete phenomenon to.
I am still not the world’s biggest believe in pre-writing. For papers which require minimal difficult theory and quotes, I believe I could write just as effective a paper in much less overall time by skipping the pre-writing process and placing a strong emphasis on revising. However, for writing more difficult papers with more complex concepts, pre-writing definitely helped me organize my thoughts and create the foundations for a stronger paper.
In my post I mentioned a “point of diminishing returns” for prewriting. I agree that each writing task is different and requires a different level or effort for prewriting. There’s certainly some point at which you just need to put “axe to the grindstone” and start writing.