Writing is a Concentrated Form of Thinking

One of my friends from grad school, Tim Carmody, blogged a nice response to my recent posts on critical thinking and writing, and it got me thinking that I need to clarify one thing: I am not anti-writing.

As I wrote in my comment on Tim’s blog (and am copying here), I want to emphasize that I don’t think I’m any less committed to writing than anybody else in the humanities. After all, I do study literature, and somebody had to write that literature.

In fact, I would argue that writing should take precedent over reading. Don DeLillo, who is a touchstone for me in most areas of culture, has said that he writes to “learn how to think.” DeLillo goes on to say that “writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them” (Paris Review 128, Fall 1993, p. 277).

Writing comes before reading, and it even comes before critical thinking.

Cognitively, developmentally, artistically, this is true: we learn to write before we learn to read. I want to recover that dynamic in my teaching. I’m simply advocating that we broaden what counts as “writing.”

2 thoughts on “Writing is a Concentrated Form of Thinking”

  1. Hi Mark! No, I think I get it; I’m only meaning “anti-writing” in the same sense as Wesch’s “anti-teaching” — so, like in the title, it’s “writing as anti-writing.”

    As for the comparison between me and you, I was originally way more specific, talking about the chirographic/typographic word and the specific forms of paper and the book, and about how that was partly because I work on nineteenth and twentieth century stuff and you work on twentieth and twenty-first century stuff… but it got weird and wonky. “Nobody’s going to care about this but me and Mark!” I thought. And I was exactly right. :)

  2. PS: On Snarkmarket, I changed “committed to writing” to “reflexively attached to writing”, which I think better nails how I feel.

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