Who’s a Writer?
“I’m not a writer.”
These four words have regularly gone through my head throughout this whole journey as a COMP fellow at Nova Southeastern University. They first made an appearance when I was checking my e-mail one day in the summer. As I scrolled down a list of unread e-mails, one in particular caught my eye. The subject heading was “NSU Writing Fellows.” It described the program and asked if I wanted to become a peer tutor for the upcoming semester. This caught my attention because writing was something I never considered myself good at. I’ve always thought of myself as more of a mathematics person as opposed to writing. Despite thinking this, I replied to the e-mail and decided to take this opportunity to help myself grow as a writer.
Walking into our first training session, I was nervous beyond belief. I looked around the room at the various new faces hoping they were just as nervous. Over the course of training, we went over essays and discussed what each of us would say to a student writer in an actual session. When it was my turn, I froze for a moment but ended up formulating a response about how a particular author jumped from one topic to a completely new one in the same paragraph. After I gave my response, these words yet again came up in my mind: I’m not a writer. How was I supposed to be a writing tutor when I didn’t consider myself a writer?
That simple statement now became a question I had for myself. At the start of the semester and our sessions, I decided that I would just go with the flow and see how the sessions went. I was shocked to hear students tell me that I really helped them and that what I said actually made more sense to them now. As the sessions progressed, I started to ponder: “Wait, am I a writer?”
I finally came to head with this question and these words when talking with our graduate assistant. She was interviewing me for one of her assignments. I mentioned to her: I’m not a writer. She caught me off guard by asking me to explain what makes someone a writer. This stumped me. I never really thought about what makes someone a writer, yet I didn’t consider myself one. To me, a writer was someone who writes all the time and knows all the ins and outs. She told me that a writer can be anyone; they don’t have to be an author or write stories in their down time.
This was a revelation to me. I have to write different types of papers for each one of my classes, and writing is something that I’ve spent hours doing. These assignments don’t all interest me, but when it comes to the ones that do, I could spend all day writing and researching about them. With this in mind, the answer became clear. I don’t have to be an amazingly accomplished writer in order to be a tutor. I can use my knowledge and experiences with my own writing to help students with their work. I’ve found this approach helpful when dealing with students who aren’t confident in their writing and are reluctant to show me their work. They actually feel more comfortable when the person looking at their paper isn’t this majorly accomplished writer who is going to pick apart their writing. I now feel more confident in not only my sessions with students but also in my own writing.