And here we go. Rather than talking about writing, we’re going to address structures in writing and create a process that, should one choose to subscribe to it, promises to alleviate stress. BULLSHIT.
Writing teachers who pull this crap always end up with unhappy students. We don’t begin writing an essay with something called “the first body paragraph”. The most absurd and increasingly common statement about writing essays is “Don’t begin with the introduction; begin with the body.” It’s meaningless nonsense.
I begin writing an essay when I’m reading. In a classroom setting, I’d read first simply to read, and I explain this to young writers as “reading without studying, reading from first word to last no matter how much or little I understand.” In my writing classroom, we all read the same works and work on responding in writing to those works and sharing our responses and we go from sentences to paragraphs to essays without using a standardized process.
About the reading strategy: when I come back to the text after sleeping on it, I always read with a purpose in mind and part of that purpose is always “thinking about how I can use this in an essay.” After all, students often have to write about what they read. The reading, then, leads me to consider quotes, kinds of quotes, appeals, arguments, research, evidence, information, dates, authors, context, et al. I record all that reading work in journals and/or note cards. Significantly, I model for students how reading and writing always go together.
When I have to compose an essay, I can organize bits of composition in a manner that I think might look good in an essay and I can begin writing. And not once have I thought about parts of an essay like “the introduction” and “the body”. This approach is important to students because it demystifies the writing process and offers concrete examples of how writing develops. And it resists stupid notions of writing appearing from nothing.