Stages of the Recursive Writing Process

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  • 0:01 The Old Writing Process
  • 1:14 Recursive Writing
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katie Surber

Katie has a Master's degree in English and has taught college level classes for ten years.

To grow as a writer, you should spend time revisiting and reflecting on your work. When you do so, you are practicing recursive writing. Recursive writing allows you to rethink all stages of your writing.

The Old Writing Process

Here Sally sits in English class. She has been given the assignment to write a personal reflection on a story that she had read. She sits in class at her desk struggling. Sally writes a paragraph, jumps back to the opening and creates a thesis and erases and starts all over again. She writes down a quote that she knows she wants to use, circles a few words to replace, and then rewrites a paragraph again. With a deep sigh, she thinks back to the writing process that she was once taught. Is she supposed to be practicing it right now? What she is doing is working, but should she change to follow the writing process?

It probably sounds familiar to you as well. The writing process taught us that writing is divided into five steps: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publication. This is the way that writing was supposed to work. This made writing easier.

But does it really? Think of Sally. She is following the assignment and her own process. She is starting over, writing down different ideas, and writing in a different order. Sally may not know it, but she is practicing recursive writing.

In this lesson, we will discuss recursive writing and how it can help us in our own writing.

Recursive Writing

Recursive writing means we repeat. In recursive writing, we forget about the five steps of the writing process and develop our own approach to writing. We follow the steps of writing as we want and revisit or repeat ideas as we see fit. Recursive writing means you do not just sit down and follow all the steps of the writing process from start to finish. It allows you to take the idea of a 5-step writing process and mix it up a bit to fit your needs.

What is so wrong with the old approach? Although the writing process may be helpful for many people, it can also limit other people's thinking. Writing is messy. It is hard to follow each step in the exact order every time. Recursive writing allows us to have more freedom in our writing and to revisit and rewrite steps as we see fit.

The key to recursive writing is recognizing that writing is a process that repeats. Do not think of writing as five neat steps that lead to completion, and then you never visit the paper again. Rather, think of writing as developing, stopping, sharing, and changing. Even when you finish and have the paper graded, revisit it again. You can always learn from your writing!

So, how can you practice recursive writing? There are a few different ways that you can practice recursive writing.

First, experiment with different patterns and genres. Let's say that you start your paper as a personal story, but then you begin to read it and realize that you are really comparing and contrasting two different events in your life. You decide to revisit the paper and develop a whole new pattern to your writing. Or, for a change in genres, pretend that you have a graded paper returned to you. It was an argumentative paper about recycling. You can change the genre and write a letter to an editor to continue to practice and rethink your argument.

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