“Your Brain on Writing”

A lot of different terms were thrown around our final chapter of Naming What We Know, including “cognition” and “metacognition”. If you’ve had as long a week as I had and needed a little refresher, then Howard Tinberg explains them as “to think through a solution to a problem differs from an awareness of how we came to resolve that problem” (75). And if that still isn’t making a whole lot of sense, then Tinberg also explains:

“For those of us who teach writing, the objective is not just to have our students produce effective writing—that is, to respond in logical and thoughtful ways to the question posed. We also want our students to demonstrate consciousness of process that will enable them to reproduce success” (75).

This is a large passage to digest. But essentially we want people to, through their writing, react to ideas “logically” and with attentiveness. To think smart and pay attention. But we also want people to show that they fully understand why they are doing what they’re doing. That they are actively choosing words and writing techniques logically, and understanding why. Ann Berthoff mentions in her book Forming, Thinking, Writing: The Composing Imagination that writers who are aware of metacognition participate in “thinking about thinking” (Berthoff 13). It’s still a lot to absorb, so I found this video which may share some insight into this new world of metacognition.

All this talking about the brain and thinking is making my head hurt!

My favorite quote from this chapter comes from Charles Bazerman and Howard Tinberg. They explain that “without a passion for the subject that turns a writer’s full mind and thought to the task of producing new words and ideas, little of value would get written” (74-75). I don’t like this quote because I like to think of people not having passion, but that they are one hundred percent right. You can be knowledgeable on a subject till the cows come home, but if you don’t have passion for it then you’ll never fully be able to understand and examine every aspect of it. And this can apply to any kind of writing whether you’re writing a novel, an academic paper, a newspaper report, or a poem. But having passion for everything you’ll ever write is hard. While everything you elect to write probably will be about something you are passionate about, what about the other things you are required to write? How do you get passionate about something your teacher is asking you to do that you could care less about? Honestly I can’t answer that. From my experience usually you can always choose your writing topics, so as long as you choose something you like you’re good, right? I came across this Ted Talk on writing and passion:

And finally I want to talk about Kara Taczak’s section on reflection. Taczak states “[reflection is] a deliberate way of systematically recalling writing experiences to reframe the current writing situation” (78). So what is Taczak saying here? Well, that having people (students even) to think back on what they’ve written will help them write better in future situations. And it has a lot to do with cognition and metacognition. Taczak further explains that “[Reflection] allows writes to recognize what they are doing in that particular moment (cognition), as well as to consider why they made the rhetorical choices they did (metacognition)” (78). This is a very important step and lesson in writing. If we were to simply write and then never think about what we’ve written then how are we supposed to grow as writers? Vanderbilt University has a great article on metacognition which helps us further dive into the world.

And finally, finally, I wanted to share this article. I couldn’t find the perfect place to plug it in, so here it will live at the end. Thinking about all this cognition and metacognition has made me think more and more about the brain. What happens to it when we write? This article I hope will share some information. If you’re as curious as me, then you won’t be able to stop reading. Enjoy!

Works Cited

Bazerman, Charles, and Howard Tinberg. “Concept 5 Writing Is (Also Always) A Cognitive Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016. 74-75. Print.

Berthoff, Ann. Forming, Thinking, Writing: the Composing Imagination. Rochelle Park, Hayden, 1978.

Chick, Nancy. “Metacognition”. Vanderbilt University, https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/metacognition/. Accessed 29 September 2019.

KleinTalks. “Kaylen Abrego – Writing is My Passion”. Youtube, uploaded by Klein ISD, 23 April 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gxag48syzkg&t=38s.

Spencer, John. “What is metacognition? (Exploring the Metacognition Cycle)”. Youtube, uploaded by John Spencer, 10 August 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZrUWvfU6VU&t=29s.

Taczak, Kara. “Concept 5 Writing Is (Also Always) A Cognitive Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016. 78-79. Print.

Tinberg, Howard. “Concept 5 Writing Is (Also Always) A Cognitive Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016. 75-76. Print.

Zimmer, Carl. “This Is Your Brain on Writing”. The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/science/researching-the-brain-of-writers.html. Accessed 29 September 2019.

Featured Image can be found here.


Melinda Grant
October 1, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Hi Miro! Metacognitive reflection is something that I want to most definitely utilize in my classroom next year. Having students “think” about their own writing and the choices they made in their writing will help foster habits that can be transferred to each course they take. Learning “why” we make the rhetorical decisions that we do in writing allows us to make informed decisions in future compositions. I also think the process of reflection is just as important for celebrating successes in writing. As difficult as writing can be at times, I think it is important to celebrate when we “get it right!”

October 2, 2019 at 3:33 pm

Hey Miro! I love that quote from Tinsberg and Bazerman about passion within the writing process and I think you explain it very well. I remember my freshman year writing class not enjoying many of the assignments. They were all so boring to me and I could never find a passion for the papers, so naturally I did not produce my best work. However, the final assignment that semester was a 10-page research paper where we could write about anything we wanted to. I was super interested in string theory at the time and because of that interest, I became really passionate about the paper and not only enjoyed the writing process, but I also received a better grade on the paper. The writing process is just so much easier when you are passionate about the subject you are writing about.

October 2, 2019 at 5:44 pm


Your ideas about passion for subject matter are interesting. I’ve found that, in classes where I didn’t particularly care about the subject matter at first, I would need to invent a way to do so. I argue with my research, and I always end up relating ideas back to either real-life or film examples to get my mind going.

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An Academic Disgrace

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