College of Arts and Science Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt Univeristy College of Arts and Science

December 2012 Update

Eekers Versus Gushers

            Though writing processes vary as widely as the idiosyncratic personalities of individual writers themselves, it is nevertheless astonishing how consistently writers tend to fall into one of two camps.  Here at the Writing Studio, we term these two essential types of writers “eekers” and “gushers.”  Identifying as either a gusher or eeker can help individuals recognize their particular strengths and struggles.  It can also be comforting, during those moments when we encounter a glitch in our writing process, to know that there is a community of writers out there who face similar difficulties.

            The prototypical “gusher” thinks through the writing process.  Upon embarking on a new piece of writing, gushers will sit down in front of their computer screens or pads of paper and, much to the amazement of their “eeker” peers, immediately begin to brainstorm in a flurry of typing and scrawling.  Having amassed a profusion of pages, the gusher’s challenge is to wrangle all those stream-of-conscious effusions and tangential meanderings into a cohesive and coherent structure.  It is at this point in the gusher’s process that a meeting with a Writing Studio consultant can be of particular service; consultants can assist clients to prioritize and organize the information strewn about in their notes.     

For the “eeker,” by contrast, thinking and writing are two separate processes. Eekers will typically defer the actual process of writing until, by means of in-depth research or obsessive outlining or silent mulling or verbal brainstorming, they begin to feel that they know exactly what they want to communicate via their writing and how that communication will unfold.  The greatest challenge for the eeker, then, is simply committing those first few sentences to the page.  Our consultants are available to help eeker clients gain confidence in their own ideas and to inspire (or, if necessary, prod!) them to get underway with the composition portion of their process.

            While identifying as an eeker or gusher can be both revelatory and reassuring, by no means must we accept that our identities as writers are defined or fixed.  As a thorough eeker myself, I have been known to vigorously defend my process; often accused of procrastination, I have always responded to the charge: “I’m not procrastinating; I’m percolating!”  Now, about to embark on my largest writing project yet—a dissertation—I have found that the propensity to eek that sustained me all through high school and college is no longer suitable.  It turns out that encapsulating an entire forty-page chapter in my head is impossible enough, let alone knowing exactly what I want to say in the dissertation as a whole before I begin writing it! 

Numerous of my colleagues assure me that they came up against a similar roadblock at some point in their writing careers.  The solution, they say, was to become a hybrid: the eekers deliberately cultivated some gusher-like tendencies while the gushers borrowed some strategies from their eeker friends.  Though many of us have trepidation about stepping outside our comfort zones, we can find inspiration in the knowledge that it’s never too late to evolve as a writer. 

            Whether you classify as an eeker or a gusher, and whether you’re at the stage in which you’re trying to identify your process or adapt it to better suit new demands, the consultants at the Writing Studio are always happy to talk with you about your writing goals.  Sometimes a writer needs a fellow writer as a sounding board or a measure of comparison.  Even if you don’t have a specific writing project in hand, we welcome you to stop by for a chat about your process and strategies for augmenting or changing it.