Reading the writing of first-year students brings its own set of challenges. Most of us have been there, in the late hours, sorting through a paragraph jumble of ideas or a tangled string of clauses that brings us to the brink of apoplexy. You may have asked yourself, as I have, “What are they thinking?” Last year, I invited my first-year students to tell me, in words and in pictures, what they were thinking about their own writing. Through literacy narratives and images, students engaged in a metadiscourse (communicating about writing) that suggests a new direction for composition research. In this presentation, I’ll share work by students that reveals a varied, rich and complex consideration of what writing means to them.