Peter Elbow (1973) offers the metaphors of growing and cooking as a model for thinking about the writing process. Growing, for Elbow, points to the macro-level change that happens when writers embrace multiple early drafts and see ideas again and anew. “Producing writing,” Elbow says, “is not so much like filling a basin or pool once, but rather getting water to keep flowing through till it finally runs clear” (p. 28). Cooking, in contrast, “is the smaller process: bubbling, percolating, fermenting, chemical interaction, atomic fission. It’s because of cooking that a piece of writing can start out X and end up Y, that a writer can start out after supper seeing, feeling, and knowing one set of things and end up at midnight seeing, feeling, and knowing things he hadn’t thought of before” (p. 48). Elbow, who was writing in the early throes of the process movement, uses cooking as a metaphor for the activity that happens when a writer lingers on a task. It is a micro-activity through which ideas are collected, assembled, and stirred together. “Cooking,” Elbow says, “consists of the process of one piece of material (or one process) being transformed by interacting with another: one piece of material being seen through the lens of another, being dragged through the guts of another, being reoriented or reorganized in terms of the other, being mapped onto the other” (p. 49). More specifically, Elbow names two types of cooking: external cooking (or desperation writing) and internal cooking (or magic cooking). External cooking is the work of writing and rewriting and writing again; it’s a means for pushing through stuck points and finding ideas. Internal cooking, in contrast, feels magical. “It is somewhat mysterious,” Elbow writes, “but you are sitting on heat or acid and it is working on the material. You are writing and it is coming out well. Or you are not writing-sitting or walking around-but you can feel it bubbling inside. Things are going well. You can feel it’s not wasted energy even if you are not writing” (p. 68).

Source: Writing Workflows | Chapter 1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s