Pages

Thursday, April 05, 2012

"I Hate Writing"


No no no—not me. Me I love writing. And reading too. My apologies for the title if it offended you, because normally I refrain from using the H-word, specially next to one of my favorite words (others, in case you were wondering, are food, baseball, farmer, and leader). So what’s the deal with such a blasphemous title? I know, as a Texas A&M University writing consultant I should never say such a thing—and I never do.

But my clients do.

Before arriving in Aggieland—Whoop!—I consulted in the University Writing and Rhetoric Center at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly). Director Dawn Janke asked that we consultants in the first five minutes ask clients how they felt about writing. You know the answer we got over 90% of the time, so I don’t need to say it: [see blog title].

Now, such spiteful language about my Beloved aint just a Californian thing. I know this because I ask my Texan clients how they feel about writing. I do this outta habit, and I care about hearing the answer every time. For some reason the last client who told me she H-word writing has stuck with me. Can’t shake the moment that she enunciated the final –ing. @writingconsultants: been three days and the #session is still trending in my cerebral feed. Hence, this conversation we’re having about writers’ frustration with writing.

I truly care about how developing writers view the writing process. It’s as if the writing process and I share a heart, and when someone talks bad about it, I get all hot and sweaty and clutch my left shoulder. A client should never say the H-word in the same sentence as writing. Never. I understand why it happens, and when it does I don’t let the client know that, when they do say the H-word, my heart skips ten beats and for a moment I black out and shake hands with God. 

After the darkness has passed, I ask the client for details: Please tell me what it is about writing that makes you H-word it so? And always the client gives these two reasons: 1) they are no good at writing, or 2) they believe they’re no good at it.

That I’m a writing consultant means I enjoy people and am on a mission to create better writers—not better writing: Thank you Stephen North. What’s cool, though, about bearing the brunt of the H-word, is I can relate. You see—I H-word math because 1) I suck at it, and 2) I know I suck at it.

To lighten the mood, after we settle in and are ‘bout ready to work, I tell the client one of my shortcomings and hope he or she finds it comforting to know that I, too, H-word something. I notice if I quickly change the subject then the carrel becomes calm, devoid of that awkward silence. Sports, music, weather—all excellent topics to divert attention and rid the room of negativity that H-word carries.

But by far my favorite thing to do is tell them a story about how I’d a never been a pro baseball player had I never practiced fielding, running, throwing, and hitting. Practice, practice, practice. In fact I practiced so much that when I awoke in the morning I was covered in dirt, grass stains, tobacco spit, and held a Louisville Slugger. I practiced how I wanted to play—and so it goes for writing: write, read, write, read. Practice!

After the story I ask, Do you read books, newspapers, magazine, backs of cereal boxes, shampoo bottles, ingredients of kitty litter? Then I suggest to them, To become a better writer, a better communicator, it’s very very important not only to write every day, and to read twice as much, but to do these voraciously and with purpose. But don’t just read to read, and don’t just write to write, I add. Read for fun, yes, but also make it a point to learn something new about yourself, not Kim Kardashian or Ryan Gosling. Dig deep and unlock a door that’s been covered in dust since birth. So many exotic places exist in your brain, and it’s time to find them. Time to travel the world and beyond. I act this way because, who knows?, maybe I'm the only one that knows the secret—that writing and reading secure you a first class seat to anywhere. (I hope others know the secret!)

Consultants . . . We must eliminate the H-word from our clients’ vocabulary. If we never ask clients how they feel about writing, about reading—and not writing and reading for school or work—then we do a disservice to them, to ourselves, but more importantly to our writing centers.

7 comments:

  1. As a student of writing and rhetoric I often here the response "I hate writing" when asked about my studies. I was never sure how to respond. Writing is so much fun, how could it be so hated? I found your suggestions to be helpful. Distraction from hating writing to other topics we find frustrating is a great way to open communication. Practice is key to gaining confidence in writing skills. I look forward to trying this out next time I faced with a person that hates writing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey thanks Shauna. So good you find my experience similar to yours. You're right; I can't believe someone would say I H-word writing! But some people do, and I think it's because of some phobia that began God knows where. Not sure. I am sure that you and me will turn the tide and help language find its way back into the hearts of the wary non-writers who really are writers that just don't know they are writers!!!

    Gig 'em.

    ReplyDelete
  3. urbanfooddude9:37 PM

    Hey thanks Shauna. Where you from? So good you find my experience similar to yours. You're right; I can't believe someone would say I H-word writing! But some people do, and I think it's because of some phobia that began God knows where. Not sure. I am sure that you and me will turn the tide and help language find its way back into the hearts of the wary non-writers who really are writers that just don't know they are writers!!!

    Gig 'em.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey thanks Shauna. So good you find my experience similar to yours. You're right; I can't believe someone would say I H-word writing! But some people do, and I think it's because of some phobia that began God knows where. Not sure. I am sure that you and me will turn the tide and help language find its way back into the hearts of the wary non-writers who really are writers that just don't know they are writers!!!

    Gig 'em.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous9:44 PM

    Hey thanks Shauna. So good you find my experience similar to yours. You're right; I can't believe someone would say I H-word writing! But some people do, and I think it's because of some phobia that began God knows where. Not sure. I am sure that you and me will turn the tide and help language find its way back into the hearts of the wary non-writers who really are writers that just don't know they are writers!!!

    Gig 'em.

    Anthony

    ReplyDelete
  6. Casey J. B.8:43 PM

    I have only run into this situation when I am asked "what do you plan to do with your life?" It really gets me to thinking, how great could the achievements of mankind culminate into if someone could harness the collected strength of the entire world? "The pen is mightier than the sword." This is a wonderfully beloved cliche, that very simply articulates the most precious truth that mankind has ever realized. "Peace and Love will ever triumph over War and Hate!

    Whenever faced with a situation like this in an advice-providing setting (haven't had much formal experience tutoring), I've tried an association tactic to help them find their love of writing. For example, If they say "I hate writing," I will then ask "if you can hate something as universally benevolent as writing, than what can you love?" Because writing can pertain to anything, a relation can always be found. I mean, aren't instruction manuals written? If they cannot think of anything but a person, I would have them write a letter they don't intend to send, that will always stir up emotions that usually turns into better, more sincere writing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous11:37 AM

    I have only run into this situation when I am asked "what do you plan to do with your life?" It really gets me to thinking, how great could the achievements of mankind culminate into if someone could harness the collected strength of the entire world? "The pen is mightier than the sword." This is a wonderfully beloved cliche, that very simply articulates the most precious truth that mankind has ever realized. "Peace and Love will ever triumph over War and Hate!

    Whenever faced with a situation like this in an advice-providing setting (haven't had much formal experience tutoring), I've tried an association tactic to help them find their love of writing. For example, If they say "I hate writing," I will then ask "if you can hate something as universally benevolent as writing, than what can you love?" Because writing can pertain to anything, a relation can always be found. I mean, aren't instruction manuals written? If they cannot think of anything but a person, I would have them write a letter they don't intend to send, that will always stir up emotions that usually turns into better, more sincere writing.

    I am Casey J. Barnson in your Monday/Wednesday class. I've tried posting several different ways and anonymously may be the ticket! Let's hope this posts!

    ReplyDelete