I prefer to write alone, especially if the writing is long and involved. I am too easily distracted by others. Plus, I don’t like people to watch me writing. It’s private. I don’t even like to write e-mails when people are around. I do like to listen to music when I write though, and I also like to snack and drink. If I were a full-time writer I would probably be 50 lbs overweight, but I would have a fantastic record collection.
When composing a paper I always think about what the reader will feel when reading my piece. Sometimes I write things that I know I won’t share with others, but I still write for an audience. When writing pieces that are for my eyes only, I think of myself as the audience or I think of my future self. Other times when I write something that is private I still write it with an audience in mind, as though that person or group of people might find it one day and read it. Writing is always about who will be reading.
I revise as I write and each paragraph goes through drastic changes from start to finish. For this reason, I prefer to write on computer. When I’m forced to write on paper I need to have four or five sheets - one piece for each paragraph I’m working on, plus an extra piece to write ideas and sentences I don’t have a place for yet. On the computer, I can do all of this in one document.
I usually start writing at the introduction and continue through to the conclusion, which is probably due to the fact that I have already thought out the piece before I attempt to write it. However, after composing each paragraph I go through the entire piece I've written thus far and reread it to make sure everything flows and there isn’t anything I want to add or subtract.
After I have finished a piece, I reread it entirely with my audience in mind. Sometimes I consider my peers as my audience, sometimes my professor, sometimes it’s just a general audience. Usually, though, there is a specific person or type of person that I have in mind. As I read I try to think about what someone other than myself would be thinking. I suppose this is my attempt at getting a ‘fresh’ look at the paper. Some people do this 'fresh look' thing by putting the piece aside for a short period of time and then coming back to it, but I rarely have time for that (and often if I set it down I will not come back).
Finally, I print the piece from the computer and read it again. When I see it on paper for the first time it is like a new piece to me. In my mind it is completely separate from what was on the screen, so I am able to look it over with a different perspective. Usually I fine-tune the paper in this mode. I like to make corrections in pencil and then go back to the document on the computer and fix the mistakes.
After I have done all these things, a paper isn't necessarily finished. However, the entire process above must take place before I am comfortable sharing a piece with others.