Writing thrives when the brain strives


Here’s something to consider when writing: My 13-year-old son impressed me this weekend. I recently snapped a photo of him while he was at the plate, facing down a pitcher in his baseball game. When he saw the photo, he was shocked.


(Flickr: Sergio Delgado)

“My batting stance is wrong!” he said.

“It is?” I asked. It had looked fine to me.

Within days he’d found a coach willing to meet him at the ball fields and throw him some pitches. When I asked him if he needed his dad’s help, he responded that after seeing that photo, he knew exactly what he had to fix.

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When I was a high school English teacher, I was trained in the application of Bloom’s taxonomy — a classification of learning objectives to which teachers aspire for their students.

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The hierarchy of learning looks something like a triangle, with the most basic form of learning — knowledge — serving as the foundation. This first rung of the learning ladder is the crucial first step in ensuring that a student is on his way to learning a subject or skill.

Achieving “knowledge” means that the student can spit back facts and and recall terms without much trouble. Think, memorizing the capitals of states.

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The final levels of Bloom’s taxonomy are considered among the highest levels of learning — analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Analysis calls for a student to recognize a problem, then synthesize or provide a solution to the problem and then evaluate and reflect on the outcome.

My son, even for his young age, demonstrated that he not only was aware of what was wrong, but he knew how he was going to fix it. That’s about as smart as it gets.

Sounds simple, right? Actually, this is not so easy. If it was, we’d all be walking around with doctorate degrees tucked in our back pockets.

As writers, we must strive for these ultimate levels of learning in our own writing. Doing so means that we must recognize where we have veered off track, where we can do better and how to remedy it.

I experience this every time I work with writers or take part in a writing group or workshop. When I read the brilliant work of other writers, I am instantly aware of my own shortcomings. I see where I can use more description. I see where I need more active verbs. The trick is to apply the changes towards something better, something inspired.

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When you go back through your work, are you cognizant of areas where you can improve? And once you have recognized a problem, do you have what it takes to fix it?

Being able to self-correct your work places you among the most advanced stages of learning and will only make your writing stronger.

Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor at and founder of Breeze Media & Communications. Learn more about her at

Kerri S. Mabee

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