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Friday, October 30, 2009

Karma Police.

Sometimes, I feel it is absolutely imperative for us to reevaluate what we personally stand for, as writing consultants. As we progress through this semester in English 303, I have become immersed in the idea of a "writer's community," or the idea of a place in the compositional construct where all those who want to learn themselves through scribbling and typing, can. In a lot of aspects, we serve as a gateway for a fair amount of students, in regards to raising questions in the hopes of also raising confidence levels. This is never an easy task, and I would venture to guess it can cause a fair amount of lost hair and brain-fade. However, I am struck by the fact that I have been given an opportunity to help other become as 3am/bleary-eyed addicted to the concept of the "perfect sentence." Despite the fact that I have always been relatively pampered (deserved or not) for my exploits, I never, EVER feel better off, or even more qualified than John or Jane Doe in the word game. Coming into all of this, I felt like I was going to have to push my glasses to the end of my nose, and feign expertise in a field which I have no earthly hope of mastering in my blip of a lifespan. Who was I to dish out structured writing advice, when the bulk of my essays are done in an energy drink induced stupor? Yet, the farther I get into this game, the more I realize it's not about my talents, or lack thereof. It's about having the altruistic motive to just help someone reach a new level in their work, regardless of personal preening and postulations.
Never do I find this more apropos than when working with a "basic writer." As we discussed in our class yesterday, writers who begin at ENG 90 on the academic writing scale, cover SO much ground in regards to natural talent and capability, that is even daunting to just try and classify them all in one easily labeled sphere. These are the writers who have been told by others, or even themselves, that they just were not good enough. However, just because the quality of their ideas does not always translate well to pen or key strokes, does not denigrate the quality itself. Where do we get off in saying someone is not a good writer, when it is only the mastery of structure which alludes them? As consultants, I believe it is our duty to draw the distinction between talent in the form (which wears many different masks), and the structural means for which to display this talent to the "academic" world. Of course, it is our job description to help build the foundation for them to stand in the maelstrom of semicolons and independent clauses. Indeed, it is a vital piece to our overall puzzle. Yet, I hope to take it upon myself to try and not lose sight of what I feel is the greater goal-Everyone deserves to have confidence in their writing. I don't care if they are writing soliloquies , or OMG LOL text-speak. Writing is not an exclusive tea party, with pinkies pointed ever so slightly. It is for the common and uncommon, the heard and unheard, and it needs to stay this way (in my humble opinion, of course :) ).

3 comments:

  1. I'm interested to hear your thoughts/feelings about altruism in the Writing Center. It seems to me that nearly all of the 303 students are intoxicated on helping someone else (very altruistic); yet the passion does not seem to be as apparent in the "veterans" (people with at least one whole year of experience). I'm not suggesting in any way that they do not care, but the transformation does make me curious. Is altruism a temporal state of being naive? Will we, after a short amount of time, progressively callus with pragmatism? Will our passion diminish? Why does anyone really like to help someone else? Does the help merely gratify our own sense of being--that is, helping someone else serves our own self-need/self interest; or do we enjoy helping others with no strings attached, because it's the best thing to do? I don't personally know for sure. What do you think?

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  2. Shaun, I think that over time, things are bound to lose steam/enthusiasm if not refueled. But I beg to differ, because I have talked to several consultants that, (although somewhat jaded, I admit), still very much love their job and believe in the magic that occurs in the Center. You know me- always optimistic. But I think if we invited the veterans to express their compassion for consulting, it would show through clearly.

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  3. Justin, i really liked your post here. I often wonder as well when i submit yet another essay i would rather not put my name on and i come into the center the next day to help students write better, if I can really do any good. I am glad I am not alone in this 'fear'? I guess that would be the word to use.
    As for the other comments here as well. I wonder if part of the reason we are so outwardly passionate about the work we do in the center is because we have a place to talk about it. The Veterans don't. It is difficult to stay upbeat about something, even if you truly love what you are doing if you don't talk about it and share it with others. We have that opportunity, and i think it is wonderful and wish there were more places or more people willing to join in the conversation and add their knowledge and perspectives.

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