Look Behind the Curtain

Admit it — you secretly harbour a belief that everyone else’s writing just flows perfectly while you’re the only one who stutters and suffers, trying to get a piece of writing whipped into shape. If you feel that way (and I know that I often do!), check out University Affairs. There’s a great short snippet on Watching Experts Write in the latest issue.

The article talks about Dalhousie’s purposeful demystification of the writing process, carried out through a workshop called W.H.I.P.S. — “Write Here in Plain Sight”. Professors each sat in a room with their computer screens projected so that others could see their writing in process:

As they wrote, the faculty members talked out loud about what they were doing and thinking for the benefit of some 120 students – and more than a few faculty members – who came to learn.

“I’d say things like, ‘darn, that doesn’t fit here,’ and take out a few sentences,” recalls Carolyn Watters, dean of graduate studies and professor of computer science, who took part.

“In the middle, I said, ‘I can’t fix it from here,’ and had to go back to the [original] headings.” It’s an eye-opener for students, she says, “to realize that it wasn’t that easy for us to write.”

This is a brilliant idea. I think I’ll suggest this to our graduate dean!

4 Responses to “Look Behind the Curtain”

  1. Mel Says:

    this is really intriguing — though for me it raises all sorts of philosophical conundrums: is it writing if there’s nothing anyone can see me doing? (I always have to spend a lot of time sitting and thinking…)

  2. Anastasia Says:

    that is an awesome idea. absolutely freaking brilliant. I’d be fascinated.

  3. Belle Says:

    Oh, I love the idea! And I think that having somebody doing their process in the open - even when that process is sitting and thinking - is brilliant. Oh, I’m sending this around my campus right now!

  4. Susan Says:

    Where do they put the part when you go clean the refrigerator to figure out what comes next? Otherwise, I think this is a terrific idea.