Writing About Writing (p. 216-235)
“Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer”
by Carol Berkenkotter
“Response of a Laboratory Rat—or, Being Protocoled”
by Donald M. Murray
In “Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer,” Carol Berkenkotter attempts to explain her case study involving the writing processes of an accomplished writer. Berkenkotter argues that the previous methodology behind studying such processes were faulty due to the laboratory settings and time constraints used. She introduces the article with the story of how she got to meet Donald M. Murray and how he became her subject of research. Berkenkotter’s method of studying Murray’s actions was very detailed and gave Murray the freedom that a writer should have. Berkenkotter and another coder reviewed several tapes recorded by Murray during his writing process; they used them to describe Berkenkotter’s theories of incubation and introspection to readers. Berkenkotter also addressed the recursive writing process implemented by Murray and the external and internal revision that is involved in writing.
In “Response of a Laboratory Rat—or, Being Protocoled,” Donald M. Murray is simply responding to the findings of Carol Berkenkotter in her study of Murray’s writing process. Murray makes notes about his surprises and his thoughts. He states that “Writing is an intellectual activity,” and it involves both writing and thinking. Murray agrees with most of everything that Berkenkotter had to say, however, he did introduce the concept of “Bathroom Epiphanies” that Berkenkotter failed to mention. Murray took the study as a learning experience.
These two articles were obviously extremely related to each other. However, they were also related to Kleine’s article because Berkenkotter was certainly implementing the “gathering” method and she studied a professional just as Kleine studied his colleagues. They were related to Greene’s article because Berkenkotter was contesting the current methods of studying writing processes. I feel that these two articles were mostly related to Allen’s article because they were very detailed about writing processes, and Allen was describing what the process of a “real writer” actually was. The two articles did not really match up with what Kantz, Berger, and McCloud had to say but that’s only because the other articles were venturing into separate construct areas.
Questions for Discussion and Journaling:
1. My impression of Murray’s writing process as they described it was “confused.” I’ve never heard of using recordings or a daybook. It all appeared very disorganized to me. However, it was very effective. I could tell from the excerpts when Murray had an epiphany or when he knew what he had so far wasn’t going to cut it. It was easy to see that, even though the process seemed jumbled, it was just his way of engaging in the recursive writing process. Murray’s process and my process are incredibly different, but that is likely due to the fact that he is a professional writer and I am a first year college student in a first-year English course. We do both make notes, but his notes are all in one place or recorded- mine are everywhere. Perhaps, I am actually the disorganized, confused, jumbled writer.
3. Berkenkotter states, “Great and small decisions and revisions…form planning. These decisions and revisions form an elaborate network of steps as the writer moves back and forth between planning drafting, editing, and reviewing.” Here it is clear that Berkenkotter truly learned just how intertwined the steps of the process are. She also mentions that Murray’s planning activities came in two kinds- process goals and rhetorical goals. Throughout the study Berkenkotter came to realize that all the steps of writing occur simultaneously and that planning accounts for nearly half of the writing process. Revising appears to happen less frequently but that is only because the other steps of the writing process bring forth many more ideas and essentially works the paper out itself.
Applying and Exploring Ideas:
1. In the past, I have spent most of my writing time just staring at a blank page. Once I really got going though, I found myself constantly changing my sentences around and reorganizing my paragraphs. The more content I added, the more reorganizing I had to do. I think I spent a lot of time wasted during my writing experiences because I am actually not experienced at all. I’ve never really been taught how to write in a way that was not linear. My inexperience would probably explain why I neglect certain parts of the process and stress too much over others.
One thing I learned from the Berkenkotter and Murray readings that I could use to help my write more effectively would be talking out loud. I could use my voice memo app on my phone to record my thoughts. Even if I though of something while walking on campus, I could just open up my recorder and start talking. Then when I say down to write, I would have all my ideas. The idea of a daybook also goes with this concept. I could by a little journal and write my main points about my audience and my purpose just to keep my on the right path. Then, I could add other notes as time goes on.
My Personal Thoughts:
I liked Murray’s response article better than Berkenkotter’s article. I felt that Murray was the better writer overall. However, with both articles together, it was pretty interesting to learn that researches actually observed the writing process first hand and studied it in detail. It’s just not something I would picture a researcher to study. Also, I liked how cooperative the two were, and how Berkenkotter tried something new at the time by letting Murray work on his own time in his environment of choice. For the most part, this was an interesting and enjoyable read.