A recent online article in “Inside Higher Education” discussed what I’ll call background writing — writing that must be done but is not the finished publishable product or submitted essay. In that article Nate Kreuter reminds us all, but particularly academics, that writing is a cognitive exercise. We write, and in the process we learn. We write as part of the thinking process, we don’t just write essays or ideas that are fully formed in our brains. We think and write together, and this process means that not all writing we do is a final finished product — nor should it be.
This idea is important for students as well as professors. Students should realize that they probably need to do a lot of non-graded writing, just as academics do a lot of non-published writing. This background writing is the foundation for the writing submitted for grading or writing submitted for publication. I’m not sure if anyone has an estimate on the amount of unpublished writing that goes into a page of publishable material. I wonder if it is like an iceberg — most of the iceberg is below the water, and very little is visible above the surface of the water.
Do background writing. Keep reading journals. Make notes. Think on paper. This will make your visible writing stronger.