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Niya McCray-Brown
Dr. Craig Wynne
Adv. Writing: ENG 320
4/6/2015
The Theory of Emo-Compositional Exchange
Imagine with me, for a moment, an author of a fictional book series sitting down to write
the story of her modern heroine. The main character is a working woman whose confidence
exudes from the pages of every novel. As the author describes the main conflict of the character,
she resorts to including pieces of her personal life to fuel the plot. She begins to right about how
her heroine discovers her lover cheating on her, a story she is all too familiar with. Her hands
pace frantically across the keyboard to capture every detail. As the author relays every detail of
her characters emotions, fury, disgust, and despair, she can feel her pulse rise and her heart
beating faster. With sweaty palms and teary eyes, she and the character become one. The range of
emotions she experiences while trying to compose her piece are swirling through the filters of
her mind, allowing her to put the characters life (as well as her own) in a perspective that she can
understand and articulate. Writing through the characters journey enables her to discover things
about her own emotional voyage. Development occurred in two ways for the author, her
emotional process rendered impeccable motivation for the development of the story, and in turn,
the story encouraged her personal development.
Although emotional aspects of composition are often overlooked, they offer benefits just
like the intellectual aspects. Outside of motivation in writing classrooms, emotional and
affective facets of writing take the proverbial backburner in the writing process. Rhetorician
Laura Micciche states it most eloquently with the quote The place of emotion in rhetorical

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studies has been overshadowed by persistent desires to view rational deliberation and
argumentation as the central functions of rhetoric (Emotion 164). My personalized theory will
illustrate enough benefits to bring emotion to the forefront of perceptions on composition.
Although emotion is a key factor in many forms of composition, such as painting or music
production, this theory is focused primarily on writing because of its underrepresentation with
that specific task, and writings emphasis on organization and articulation. A commonly held
belief in the writing community is that personality and affect can contribute to discursive style
and writers choice. I agree with this notion, however my theory takes this information a step
farther.
I propose that because writing is just as much an emotional process as an intellectual one
that your discursive style can affect your personality as well. For example, in the imaginary story
above the writer achieved a new level of personal awareness because of her discursive choices.
Writing can lead to many transformational aspects in the human psyche including increased
problem solving skills, personal development, and much more. As your emotions influence your
writing, your writing will influence your emotions in a cyclical progression that can be a
therapeutic outlet for many writers. The theory is titled the Theory of Emo-Compositional
Exchange referring to the interchange of emotional depth between the writer and their work.
Whether they were aware of it or not, I am sure everyone has experienced a context in
which their emotions pervaded their writing environment. Whether it be an anxious tick during a
timed in-class essay or writers block due to fear or avoidance, emotions are an imminent
component of the compositional process. Unfortunately, despite the signals, many people ignore
affective layers to the writing process. Scholar Alice Brand reports that it is because of the view
that meaning and knowledge are often construed as purely intellectual, and these constructs

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are in large part what comprise composition (The Why 436). She offers the following thread as
a rationale as to what links these constructs to emotion. Brand suggests that the intersection of
knowing, belief systems, morality, and attitudes is what drives the affective component of
writing. This valid rationale single- handedly supports the importance of emotion in writing.
Since the concepts of belief and writing are so intertwined, it is reasonable to presume that that
they can affect each other. Although Brand offers a more theoretical perspective, Susan McLeod
proposes empirical measures that indicate the role of emotion as well (431). She asserts
scientific measurements that indicate the presence of affective reactions of motivation, anxiety,
and once again belief within the writing process (McLeod 431).
Emotion as a component of writing is not a new perception in rhetoric. However, blurry
definitions of the construct as well as misconceptions of emotion relative to the constructs of
sociality and expression has made emotion less popular. Platonic rhetoric engages a historical
perspective on the importance of emotion. The principles of Platonic rhetoric that regard
meaning all view it as an intrapersonal experience that relies heavily on affect (Walter 25). In
recent years, as more theories of composition have developed, the extremely thin line between
social influences, and pure internal emotion have become gray. Another valid argument exists
that because emotional and social aspects of composition are so closely related they sometimes
cause discrepancies in the research and prior literature (Brand, Social Cognition). The final
claim is made that because social aspects are more easily analyzed scientifically, that emotional
aspects often become lost in translation because they are more difficult to organize and analyze.
This is likely a huge contributor to the lack of focus on emotion in composition.
The theory is applicable in many different discursive environments. Creative writing
would abide by the blueprint of the theory perfectly as demonstrated in the story in the intro, but

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forms of creative non-fiction such as personal narratives, autobiographies, and memoirs would
yield similar responses. Any form of writing that engages the authors own personal thoughts and
feelings would follow the theory of emo-compositional exchange. The most important aspect of
the theory is the writers capability to make the piece personal. This is the only way that the
exchange can occur.
My familiarity in the development with this theory stems from my own struggle with
vulnerability in my writing. For a large portion of my life, the type of surface level writing that I
did lacked any real depth because I refused to give my audience that kind of access to my true
voice. I would not say that I was ashamed of it, just very protective in fear that it would be
inferior. I would receive my As on essays for excellent content and great syntax all without
doing much but repeating class concepts more articulately than the other students. Now, as a
college student, my external dependency has run dry and much of the types of writing that I have
been required to do demands emotional investment. The more I learn to rely on my own
emotional experiences to drive my writing the proverbial floodgates have opened and my writing
has progressed tremendously. The depth of my writing is much more persuasive and elements of
writers choice are even more appealing because I allow portions of myself to be exposed as I
write. In return, I have grown to learn that my voice is valuable, and that instead of shielding it in
fear, I should allow it to shine. Emotional investment in my writing not only made me a better
writer, but also a stronger person.
In my personal life, I aim to use this theory as a future writer of self-help literature.
Whether it be blogs or books, I would like to be the type of writer that writes through my own
personal struggles and subsequent solutions in an effort to relay important practices to the reader.
As I write, the personal depth that I provide will be more engaging (my emotions will affect the

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writing), and in return my writing will enable me to grow and hopefully contribute to the growth
of my audiences (the writing will affect us). Writing demands a certain sense of planning and
logic that can take our sometimes clouded emotions and make sense of them, making us stretch
and grow in ways that might have been otherwise impossible. When we include our personal
stories in our writing, the theory of Emo-Compositional exchange will allow us to progress
through the necessity of the articulation of topics we might otherwise suppress and ignore.
As established by the literature, emotion is a viable element of the composition process.
Because emotion is intrapersonal, the process of composition has to have an effect on the
personal dealings of the psyche. Writing inherently enables the brain to organize and articulate.
Therefore, by incorporating personal emotions into writing the process writers can achieve
emotional progression. The Theory of Emo-Compositional Exchange illustrates this cycle. The
utilization of writing as a means to achieve a greater sense of personal awareness and problem
solving strategies could offer a tremendous benefit to writers and readers alike.

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Works Cited
Brand, Alice. "Social cognition, emotions, and the psychology of writing." Journal of Advanced
Composition (1991): 395-407. Jstor. Web
Brand, Alice G. "The why of cognition: Emotion and the writing process." College Composition
and Communication (1987): 436-443. Jstor. Web
McLeod, Susan. "Some thoughts about feelings: The affective domain and the writing process."
College Composition and Communication (1987): 426-435. Jstor. Web.
Micciche, Laura. "Emotion, ethics, and rhetorical action." JAC (2005): 161-184.
Walter, Otis. "Plato's Idea of Rhetoric for Contemporary Students: Theory and Composition
Assignments." College Composition and Communication 35.1 (1984): 20-30. Jstor. Web.