Macros and Micros

[flashback to NaNoWriMo]

The more I get back into writing the more I ponder what type of writer I actually am. According to Zadie Smith's essay "That Crafty Feeling," there are two types of writers: macro planners and micro managers. Smith says that the macro will configure his novel ahead of time, planning with "his Post-its... and Moleskins he insists on buying." She says that macros planners know the path their writing intends to take before they even begin, allowing them the flexibility to jump around and make changes that resemble "radical surgery," since they know how the pieces of their work will fit together. Micro managers start at the first sentence and finish at the last, knowing what happens only when they get there. She uses the analogy of house building; a macro planner will build the structure of the house and then move around furniture as needed, while a micro manager will only build and decorate one room at a time. 

Personally, I think my writing style perfectly fits my personality and is a combination of the macro and micro approach. Take the novel (I feel like such a douche saying that I'm writing a novel- it sounds so pretentious and pseudo-intellectual)  I'm currently working on. The structure is critical, therefore I've planned extensively what every section is going to be about. The character development is also key, therefore I know how the main character will change from the first page to the last page. This is all very macro-ish of me. On the micro side, I refuse to jump around when I write; I start on the first page and I will end on the last page (and will edit when I'm done). This need for planning and the demand to know what's going to happen is who I am at my core, for good or bad (or better of worse if you're my poor husband). Uncertainty is my arch-nemesis and not knowing where I'm headed drives me insane. My refusal to allow anyone read it (only a few know what it's even about), also mirrors my relatively private nature- my good friends know me well, but everyone else gets just the basics.


This idea of how we write it also interesting to me as a teacher. Most of my students come to me lacking skills; they can write an essay, but they generally struggle with voice, organization, ability to produce substantial content, mechanical skills, or all of the above. My inclination is to always tell them how I go about writing: jot down a list of ideas, fine tune these ideas into outlines, write a draft, edit, and then create the final pieces. It's a pretty traditional approach that allows me to plan extensively. This approach does not work for everyone, nor is it conducive to the procrastinating teenagers time frame. Most of my students admittedly fail to do any sort of planning whatsoever, a technique that really should only be left to more skilled writers. It's definitely an on-going challenge.

One of the best things about writing is that there are so many ways to approach it. When I go to readings someone will usually asks the writer on their practices and I've heard everything from Nick Hornby needing an office outside of his home where he fights the urge to surf the web all day, to Colum McCann's desk in a small closet where he listens to music early in the morning before his family is awake. Some authors plan and research, some just start and see where the wind takes them (like Zadie Smith). Some edit as they go, some wait until the end. Some ask spouses or friends to read their first forty pages before they keep going, while some finish an entire draft before they'll even talk about it. Writing is writing. If you love your subject matter (or at least have an iota of interest) it'll come in whatever way is natural for you. The only wrong way to do it is to not do it at all.

Tell the class about your writing style. 

1 comment:

  1. My students also struggle the most with organization. They often lack macro skills and can't see the big picture of how each point they are making or piece of research they are citing fits together. Many of my developmental students suffer from being too focused on the micro. They can't see past the one sentence, one word, one piece of punctuation they are currently staring at and rewriting and revising over and over again to get to the next sentence, word, and piece of punctuation. Thanks for sharing these thoughts as it has given me a new vocabulary to approach their ideas of drafting and revision with.