Maturity in Writing


Redefining Maturity in Writing

Lee Odell

excerpts from Learning to Write: First Language / Second Language

Edited by Aviva Freedman, et al. 1983. London: Longman

One of the first people to try to establish this relationship was James Moffett, who equates growth in writing ability with the progression from a relatively egocentric state (in which one is able to address only limited audiences about only a few kinds of subjects) to a relatively decentred state (in which one is able to address a variety of audiences about a variety of subjects). Mof­fett’s work has led to substantial improvements in the way writing is taught. And it has helped us understand the kinds of tasks a mature (i.e. relatively non egocentric) writer should be able to perform...

[The egocentric] writer does not consider such questions as these:

·         How does my audience feel about the subject at hand?

·         How does my audience feel about me?

·         How are my audience’s feelings/values/experiences different from mine?

·         What justification might my audience have for these feelings/values?

·         What kinds of arguments might my audience see as persua­sive?

...People can change in their view of knowledge and, consequently, in the ways they think about experience, feelings, values, and ideas. ...[T]his development is important to one’s growth as a writer. In­deed, I suspect that what often appear to be ‘writing problems’ may be cognitive problems; at least some of these problems may appear because writers (at whatever age) have not learned to go beyond their egocentric, overly simple view of a subject or have not come to understand that their audience is someone who may not see the world as the writer does and who must, therefore, be accommodated in a variety of ways.

Recognizing that the audience is different from himself or herself, [the writer who is not egocentric]...

1.      provides an appropriate context for his/her statements;

2.      bases his/her arguments on values the audience is likely to share.

...[There are] other features of ‘mature’ writing. This writing might show an author trying to:

1.      anticipate and respond to objections/questions the audience is likely to have;

2.      recognize the legitimacy as well as the limitations of other points of view on a given subject;

3.      acknowledge, where appropriate, the limitations of his/her own point of view, indicating what his/her theories can not explain, taking note of and trying to reconcile evidence that appears to contradict one’s ideas or feelings.

4.      recognize the complexity of the subject at hand, attending to more than one single feature of an experience.