Dejection and Gratification: The Emotions of Writing

I felt very validated while reading the chapter “Writing Is (Also Always) a Cognitive Activity.” Writing is very difficult; and despite being an English major and studying writing at the graduate level, it constantly frustrates me. The text emphasizes this stress, but it also notes how joyful and gratifying the writing process can be. In the essay “Writing is an Expression of Embodied Cognition,” Charles Bazerman and Howard Tinberg make a great point regarding these opposing emotions while writing. They state, “Writers at the computer or desk carry the tension of thought throughout their full posture, can grimace at the difficult contradiction, and can burst into laughter at the surprising discovery or the pleasure of an elegant” (74). This quote really resonated with me because I usually get visibly frustrated while I write. (If you get frustrated during the writing process too check out this helpful article to combat these feelings) Sometimes my girlfriend will see me getting frustrated and force me to walk away from my computer for a few minutes to get a snack and clear my head.

This frustration and confusion is as much as part of the writing process as the gratification I also feel when I write. Every time I write I feel as if I know more about myself then I did before and that I have gained valuable knowledge. This is especially true for the writing of these blog posts as they have been truly eye-opening. Overall, these emotions stem from the fact that writing is a cognitive activity that involves a lot of brain activity and the task of creating something out of nothing can be daunting for many people. This can lead to many writers feeling anxious or constantly searching for inspiration for their writing, and this process for finding inspiration looks different for every writer. These complex emotions are showcased in this scene from The Simpsons.

The writing process explained perfectly by The Simpsons

However, we, as writers, overcome these emotions. Defeating these emotions and creating something unique is such a rewarding feeling.

This chapter posed some very interesting questions about the cognition involved in writing, such as, “What makes writers “blocked,” or causes them to stall once they get going?” and “Why do writers interrupt higher-order attempts to shape meaning to correct lower-order issues of spelling and punctuation, and does it matter?” (Dryer 72). I think these questions will be especially important to keep in mind when teaching freshmen students next year. Most of these students will not be familiar with a particular writing process and the frustration that the cognition of writing entails. It takes time for students to get used to the writing process and Dryer implores teachers and supervisors to remember that the “automaticity” of a writing routine takes time. This is because, as Dryer puts it, “writers taking on a new task are attempting to forge neurological connections that literally aren’t there yet” (74). Writing in college is going to be a foreign concept for some students, and I plan to be sympathetic of this struggle. After all, no writer is immune to the struggle of the writing process.

It is both a blessing and a curse that in order to produce meaningful writing, we must go through some dejection and frustration first. I want to accept these feelings as a normal and good part of the writing process. Just like a body-builder or fitness fanatic embraces the pain and burn they experience from working out, I want to embrace the “burn” of the writing process, because I know this will only lead to a strengthening of my writing.

Works Cited

Dryer, Dylan. “Writing Is (Also Always) a Cognitive Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, edited by Linda Adler-Kasner and Elizabeth A. Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, pp. 72-74.

Bazerman, Charles, and Tinberg, Howard. “Writing is an Expression of Embodied Cognition.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, edited by Linda Adler-Kasner and Elizabeth A. Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, pp. 75.

“The Writing Process.avi.” Youtube, uploaded by zefmanx, 21 Nov 2011,

3 thoughts on “Dejection and Gratification: The Emotions of Writing”

  1. “Dejection and Gratification” in writing is so very relatable, Danny! I enjoyed your post and had quite a few scenarios play out in my mind while reading. The “writer’s block” can be so irritating and I find that if I completely walk away for even 15 – 30 minutes, the writing flows much better when I re-engage. At times, I will stop working on the writing piece I am composing and pull out a separate sheet of paper to do nothing but brainstorm. Sometimes it just involves writing keywords, buzzwords, or phrases, but it allows me to get the information out of my head and onto paper. I can then usually begin composing the original piece I was working on, and the “brainstorming” paper is an excellent reference to keep referring back to for ideas. I plan on using this process with students in the classroom. On the flip side, it is so rewarding when you complete a writing piece that you are happy with!

  2. Danny,

    I loved your Simpsons’s clip! And yes everything you said is totally right: writing is the best and the worst all at once and all at the same time. Writer’s block is a huge issue for me, and I honestly don’t know how to combat it. I don’t know how exactly to instruct my future students either. I feel like writer’s block is one of those things where if you come up with a solution, it might not work for the person next to you. And maybe that’s because writing is so personal and personalized!

  3. Danny,

    I so relate to all of this. As an English major, I’ve had so many people tell me that it must be easy for me to write. Well, frankly, that’s just not true. I love writing, and I wouldn’t do anything else, but it can be an uphill battle. I also get visibly frustrated when I’m working, and I have to take frequent breaks to clear my head. Usually my best writing comes in sort of crazy bursts, where I’m yelling at the page and just about to break.

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