Looking at my writing in terms of performance helps me see the value of precision, experimentation, and time in search of excellence.

music-writerAfter joining the staff at the Writing Resources Center, I was surprised by the number of talented consultants who can both reach an accord with their consultees and strike a chord with their choirs. As a singer myself, I wondered if our center’s connection to singing ensembles was just an anomaly; however, the more I considered the two activities, the more I saw writing and performing as different ways of exploring the same creative process.  

When a choir first sings through a piece, the resulting tune might resemble an avant-garde jumble more than a captivating chorale. Chaos ensues as the sopranos enter a measure early, the piano gets lost on page three, and wrong notes clash against wrong-er ones. However, this initial mess is an expected one. This train-wreck is akin to a brainstorm that gives the writer a silhouette of an argument and a sense of what the final product could be.

The next step is to refine. In rehearsal, this means going back to the basics: sitting at the piano and tediously plunking out notes to ensure that each chord sits in place to properly support the melody. In the same way, a proper argument will only make sense if the evidence underneath lines up precisely, requiring a close analysis of the parts of the claim and flow of ideas.

The musical process doesn’t end when every note is technically correct, just as a good paper is not finished when individual arguments are well-supported. Singers need to consider the piece as a whole, following the emotional arc of the music and changing inflection as the chords shift from major to minor and the volume crescendos from a soft piano to a shaking forte. No note is ever static, with each measure propelling the story of the song. Essays ebb and flow in a similar way, creating nuance by transitioning between arguments with ease. Only after rehearsing over and over again and constantly readjusting with fresh eyes and ears can these two art forms reach their final stages, ready to show off to their respective audiences.

Looking at my writing in terms of performance helps me see the value of precision, experimentation, and time in search of excellence. Both present puzzles which appear daunting, but become beautiful with hard work. Don’t be afraid to fine tune your writing until all the parts of your paper exist in harmony.

Image: shannonathompson.com