Composing, Writing, Drafting

Composing (aka writing or drafting) is more than translating thought into language: it's a generative process. Studies of how people compose as well as interviews of writers at work illustrate that writing and thinking are one and the same: as people write, they experience new ideas, new insights, that shape not only how they compose moving forward but also how they express themselves—their writing style.
Composing: a tiny man running on the keys of a vintage typewriter

"Vintage Typewriter Composing" by Wendelin Jacober is licensed under CC0 1.0

Composing: a tiny man running on the keys of a vintage typewriter

What is Composing?

Composing is the act of writing—the act of making meaning.

Composing is

  • the moment your thoughts and feelings find symbolic expression in some sort of language (e.g., alphabetical, visual, and quantitative language)
  • a way of thinking, a way of problem solving
  • a subject of study, an interdisciplinary academic discipline (see Writing Studies).


brainstorm, compose, outline, draft, write, create

Related Concepts: Growth Mindset; Invention; Research; Self Regulation; Writing Process.

Composing & the Body

Composing is an organic, creative process. We feel composing in our bodies as a form of felt sense.

Writers, speakers, and knowledge workers . . . talk about listening to their inner speech when trying to make composing decisions.

Composing & the Mind

Composing is an act of reasoning:

Writers engage in

Composing & Social, Semiotic, Rhetorical, Processes

Social Process

Composing is a social process. We are members of discourse communities. Tacitly, we learn the lexis, jargon, diction, syntax, media, writing spaces, and grammar of the communities we interact with. Even if we are not conscious of it, we take the temperature in the room before we speak. In other words, we consider the existing tone. We look at the personas and voice of the works of people who are publishing on the topic; the archive. We notice the research methodologies and epistemologies that inform research and scholarship on the topic.

As we move across boundaries of discourse communities, without even being conscious we are doing it, we engage in code switching behaviors. We adjust our vocabulary,diction, voice, tone, persona, methods of argument, syntax in response to our audience and purpose.

Our focus is invariably on our audience. As writers, we have to move analysis helps us know what we know what we need to say. And that might involve mapping our research plan or research protocol as well. how well we believe it will best meet the needs of our in relation to our, our aim for responding to the exigency, the call to write.

Discourse pivots on social processes and conventions. As we enter new rhetorical situations, we adjust our style of writing.

Semiotic Process

Writers engage in dialog with one another via shared semiotic systems, including e.g., alphabetical language, visual language, rhetorical moves, genres, and styles.

Rhetorical Process

Writers engage in rhetorical analysis when they face an exigency, a call to write. To achieve clarity and persuasiveness in communications,Writers adjust their writing style. For example, in formal circumstances, they hold back on personal expression, informal syntax, vague language.

Composing & Media

Writers compose in a variety of media and languages, different semiotic systems), including alphabetical, visual, mathematical, and computer language).

The media writers employ have particular constraints and affordances, and consequences.

Composing & Intrapersonal Competencies

Composing requires intrapersonal competencies. Writers need to open their minds, adopt a growth mindset, and practice self-regulation in order to listen and understand the point of view of their audience.

Composing & Models of Composing

Investigators in Writing Studies study how people compose in different rhetorical contexts, at different historical periods. This work leads to theories about models of composing, creativity and writing development.