Jul 22, 2010

Peter Schwartz, "The Writing Process"

For beginning and intermediate writers, I recommend The Writing Process, an audio recording of two lectures by writer and editor, Peter Schwartz.[1]

In a quiet, understated style, Schwartz first identifies false ideas some writers -- and would-be writers -- hold about the nature of writing. These false ideas make the writing process more difficult than it needs to be. An example false idea is the notion that the writer as a person is defective if his efforts to write are not productive. The appropriate true idea here is the insight that the process the writer is following, not the writer himself, is most likely the cause of a writing problem. If the writer comes to understand (1) the process he is actually using and (2) the logical process he should be using, then he can take steps to practice the objective process.

The second major section of the lectures considers true ideas about writing, as theory. Topics include the nature of clarity, not only sentence by sentence, but for a whole essay; the integrative role of a theme; and the importance of choosing, before writing, the level of abstractness appropriate for the subject and theme. The problem of abstractness is a problem of depth. For example, does a writer need to establish the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical foundations of a political theme? A homework assignment at the end of the first lecture challenges listeners to decide which sort of article to write for a particular theme -- for instance, that the U. S. Food and Drug Administration should be abolished.

The third major section of the lectures also examines true ideas about writing, but in actual practice. (Integration of theory and practice is characteristic of Schwartz's lectures.) Particularly helpful is Schwartz's discussion of the writer's actions in the five major stages of the writing process: understanding; compiling a "laundry list" (including a theme statement); outlining (Schwartz recommends two types); composing a draft; and editing.

Peter Schwartz's lectures, The Writing Process, are an exercise in objective communication. Drawing from his own long experience, he identifies facts about the writing process and offers suggestions for making it more efficient and therefore more enjoyable.

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith

[1] Available from The Ayn Rand Bookstore.


Anonymous said...

Amongst other insights, this lecture helped me grasp a major point: the importance of thinking on paper by pouring out one's thoughts on a topic before attempting to write the piece. It now seems self-evident, and I'd actually heard it made several times before, but I only grasped it after hearing Peter Schwartz make it very explicitly in this lecture.

Once one's thoughts are written down, one can then move around and integrate them into a coherent whole. To try and move around so much information solely in one's mind, as opposed to moving around written thoughts, is overhaul, and will result in one not being able to make as abstract and precise points as possible.

I would never have been able to write my recent piece, "End States That Ideologically Support and Sponsor Terrorists--End Political Islam--End Iran," if I had not poured my thoughts out beforehand on Word about Islam being anti-pleasure and primitivist and the Middle Eastern Muslim citizens largely supporting the basic principles of the Islamic worldview and ideology, which lead to them being responsible for their governments' allowance and breeding of terrorism.

Article here:

It is Schwartz' isolation of the point--stopping on it, identifying it explicitly, and saying how important it is--that makes it so clear.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Here is a question from someone who did not follow etiquette (providing his name):

Do you recommend this over "The art of Non Fiction"? (For a beginner).

For beginning writers, I would recommend first a slow, close study of The Art of Nonfiction. After applying its suggestions for awhile, I would then closely study Peter Schwartz's lectures. Finally, as the years go by, restudying both will be profitable.