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The Absolutely Literate blog is for people interested in writing, editing, design, history and family history.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Growing your Thesis

I am an organic writer, or so I was told by an English professor, ages ago at university. I remember going to meet with her about my essay and I was terrified that I did not have an answer for what I thought would be the key question “what is your thesis statement?” I no longer remember the specifics of the essay, but I remember telling her that I wanted to explore the themes in one of the Sam Shepard plays we were studying and I am pretty sure there was some reference to a lyric from a Spirit of the West song and Norman Rockwell. At any rate I remember her saying that she too was an organic writer and that it wasn’t until your wrote she wrote her first draft that she knew where things were headed. I felt so relieved after all those years of being told that the first thing you did was write your thesis statement, then your outline, and then your first draft.

I was reminded of this today when reading the April 28, 2013 New York Times article “A Writing Coach Becomes a Listener” about William Zinsser. So much focus in writing lately seems to be around genre I was comforted to read Zinsser’s dismissal of these categories during the initial stages. “Don’t worry about labels. . . .We’ll figure out what it is after you’ve written it.”

There are so many distractions in our world it is a good reminder to just focus on writing well and worry about the rest on a different day.

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