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.