Friday, May 22, 2009

"Writing" is self-paced, but a narrow view of writing

In "Writing as a Mode of Learning," Janet Emig indicates that writing is self-paced, and that "one writes best as one learns best, at one's own pace" (12). I'm reading and rereading this in context to try to determine whether this has anything to do with procrastination. Out of context, I could jump up and say that if writers ideally write at their own pace, we must be careful of pushing deadlines and labelling writers "procrastinators" for not meeting those deadlines.

But I hesitate to say that's what Emig was really getting at. She elaborates on the sentence in question by saying that "to connect the two processes [writing and learning], writing can sponsor learning because it can match its pace" (12). Now this may still imply that students have to write at their own pace, but I don't think that is Emig's point here. I think she's saying that students learn through writing because they only go as fast as they put words on paper. In fact, I think she's using the narrow view of writing I mentioned in my last post--actually sitting down and putting words on paper, not considering an assignment, thinking about a topic, doing research, and so on.

This reading of Emig is supported when she cites Sartre, who said he couldn't write anymore because listening to himself on tape was no kind of way to revise. He might need to review his words slowly, or he might want to skim through, but where writing and reading allow for that kind of self-pacing, talking and listening to a recording do not (13).

Emig, Janet. "Writing as a Mode of Learning." 1977. Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. Ed. Victor Villanueva. Urbana IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2003. 7-16.

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