In class today, we read an essay called “Essay”, by Daniel Coffeen, in which Coffeen describes his process of writing. He talks about a sort of “just go with it” attitude that he has, simply letting the thoughts form and the words string together in whichever way they may as he goes along. As Coffeen writes, he is “forced to find connections… between and amongst [his] otherwise scattered thoughts”.
This concept wasn’t exactly foreign to me because for years, I wrote like this almost every single day. When I was younger, I kept a diary, and this was exactly what writing was to me.
Although Daniel Coffeen wrote specifically about writing essays, I couldn’t help thinking that this process could also be connected with other kinds of writing, like the more personal writing that one would write in a diary, or a journal. Some may use their diaries and journals to keep records of everyday occurrences in their lives, but more often that not, diaries carry a collection of thoughts, of separate ideas that may or may not become a clear, distinct point of view.
After I came home, I actually went to locate my old journals, to see if I could distinguish what arguments and viewpoints I was trying to express so many years ago, to see if Coffeen’s process of writing was as evident in them as I remember. I was able to find them, and soon I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom, flipping through every page of every single journal. As I reread my collections of thoughts, I couldn’t help thinking things like “Oh wow, I can’t believe I thought that when I was twelve” or “Hmmm… that’s a good point, eleven year-old me” or “What are you even trying to say right now, Karen??”
I saw it. I saw the disparate thoughts I brilliantly connected into a solid argument. I also saw the random ideas that I failed miserably in trying to express in a way that made any sort of sense. But the thing was, I realized that I see these things in everything that I write.
My teacher was talking a bout how we’ve been taught to not write the way Coffeen does, to have a clear and rigid structure in our writing. Our blog posts can utilize Coffeen’s methods, but essays are different.
However, I do not believe that is the case. Sure, the end product might look different. I’m not blind; I can definitely see that my essay analyzing The Scarlet Letter looks different from my journal entries, from this blog post. However, what about the actual process?
I’m sitting here, trying to relate my ideas and coherently express my thoughts as I am writing this blog post. But what if I were sitting here writing an essay analyzing a novel, or an FRQ for my AP U.S. History class, or a entry in my diary? I doubt my process of writing would be much different.
Coffeen described his way of writing in a way that made it sound different and unique, but I think everyone writes like this all the time. This struggle to coherently express ideas, this process of attempting to connect separate thoughts as we put words on a page and hoping they form some sort of argument – well, it’s just what writing is.