The earliest phases of writing are often explorations. In fact, writing is the thinker's way of exploring the world, inside and out. If you want to write something—an assigned paper, a story for yourself—and you turn on your computer or pick up a pen, you really can have it both ways, since writing starts from ideas, and ideas start from writing. When you write, you explore your memory, texts, neighborhoods, the news, the Internet, and the library. We could call this first phase of the composing process by many different names, such as planning, inventing, discovering, or trying out, but for our purposes here, exploring will work: you'll know what I mean.

Writers explore topics and approaches to topics when they make notes, start lists, generate outlines, write journal entries, and compose rough drafts. They also discuss, E-mail, telephone, visit, and consult with others. And they also explore less deliberately when they walk, jog, eat, read, and wake up in the middle of the night thinking. The following sections treat, in detail, different ideas about exploring.

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