You cannot accumulate pages if you constantly second guess yourself. You have to second guess yourself just enough to make constant revision productive and not debilitating. You have to believe that clarity is going to come, not all at once, and certainly not before you write, but eventually, if you work at it hard enough, it will come. Thought does emerge from writing. Something ineffable happens when you write down a thought. You think something you did not know you could or would think and it leads you to another thought almost unbidden.
So says Professor Lynn of Hunt of UCLA’s History department. The entire article “How Writing Leads to Thinking (And not the other way around)” from the Art of History column in the February 2010 issue of Perspectives on History is available online here. Thanks to Jean Smith of the History Compass Exchanges blog for calling Hunt’s article to my attention.
The idea of writing as discovery is not new to composition teachers, or rhetoricians, but I do very much wish that more senior scholars would do as Professor Hunt has, and talk about their writing process. Pass the link on to others; it might be the very thing some graduate student needs.