Metawriting

Today, in class, I asked my students to think of the best and worst prompts that they could be asked to write about (most authentic and least authentic). I was impressed by the sophistication of their responses, but I was particularly intrigued by one response in the category of least authentic prompt. It came from an identified gifted 7th grader (although, I’m not sure that it matters). He said the worst prompt would be to write an essay about the essay you are writing. I think that he put it better, though. It took me a couple of minutes to regather my wits after battling such wonderfully recursive logic. I kept thinking about how we use metacognition in writing (thinking about thinking). I was also taken with the idea of reflecting about writing as you are doing it. So, in honor of this fantastic premise, I would like to begin writing an essay about writing the essay I am writing.

I am writing about what I am writing about. The right wrists placed near the right keys. The longer I think and write, the longer I rightly think. I have no concept of content, a supposed constant companion in an essay. This essay, though, this one right now lacks all content, so what is left? Style, my friend, style.

The essay, as a way of making meaning about a topic, is so perfect. In this way, I am writing about nothing. I can’t write about anything but what I am writing about. I have no point, but to be pricked by potent words. This is the writing that is continually reborn, every syllable is eating itself, turning itself inside out, and becoming the same again and again.

Just as a sine wave crosses the x-axis infinitely, writing about the words themselves is the freedom to come home as many times as I want. I can go deeper into the crevices of every word, seeing them as open and hopeful, more so than any others because these are words about words. This essay is as closed and open ended as a circle. It can never be about what it isn’t about.

I find purity in writing this essay. in its unending and unbeginning. Truly, all of these words cannot exist. They can only be within my head. But they are at my fingertips too, and because they are there, I love them. Once I start writing, I have changed what I am writing about. How can I then write about it? I love my paradoxical essay, my potent words without a point.

So, these words must blur together and leave no residue in your mind. I have said nothing about something many times over. That nothing, though, is so savory, so stylish. I could write about writing about nothing for a very long time.

I’m not sure that my student implied all of this when he wrote it, but I hope that he did (we’ll see when I show it to the class tomorrow). I like this type of recursion and metacognition. With a little bit broader scope, this kind of writing about writing could be actually useful in the classroom. Let me know what you think about this “instantaneous reflection.” Is it useful? Is it important to reflect upon every action you do as you are doing it? Do we do this naturally or do we need inquisitive 7th graders to point it out to us?

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  1. Pingback: Daily Lesson Plans » Blog Archive » 08.29.06

  2. I’m really big on asking my students to metatext their writing, or process it. I think it really helps them to think about their writing process but it all depends on the questions you ask them. Leaving the process writing open probably won’t help them much but specific process questions will. I usally ask them how they arrived at their topic, what they like, what they don’t like, what they found helpful in crafting the piece.

  3. Psycodude

    Dear Mr. Wilkoff and Core 2,

    I’m sorry for all the trouble I caused you last year on blogger and nation states, and I’m sorry for what I’ve done this year. It is not a good thing to get enjoyment out of annoying people, and saying mean things to them. I didn’t realize what a bad thing I was doing until Mr. Wilkoff talked about it today. I really should get a life, instead of going home and getting on the computer to annoy and 5pam people. Psycodude will not bug you anymore. I will stick to my real account, and only post positive, nice comments. I don’t think any of you will forgive me, and that’s ok, but I really am sorry. Well, goodbye…forever.

    Sincerely,
    Psycodude (sorry, but I don’t want people to know who I am, and you wouldn’t either!)

  4. Pingback: A blog with some words » Blog Archive » I Really Don’t Know What To Write About

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