Ramblings of a Writing Tutor: Getting Excited About Writing
Recently, while perusing the shelves of Barnes and Noble, I came across a journal. The journal had a beautiful floral cover with the quote by C.S. Lewis, "You can make anything by writing." As a read the quote, I got goose bumps. I was inspired. Here, in my hands was a blank book filled with endless possibilities. I could write anything I wanted on this journal's pages. The pages of the journal were just waiting to be filled with my thoughts, fears, prayers, hopes, dreams, and ideas. I obviously decided to purchase the journal. It is currently sitting on my desk in my dorm room, waiting patiently for me to finish filling up the pages of my current journal and fill up its pages with anything that I care to.
Every time that I read the quote on its cover, I stop and think about its implications. “You can make anything by writing.” It is a pretty exciting idea if you really stop and think about it. Writing is not just for the purposes of completing college research papers for a grade; writing is a wonderful form of self-expression. Whether one is writing a personal journal entry, a prayer, a poem, or a college paper; writing is a way for any individual to communicate whatever it is that they are thinking about. When one takes their writing seriously, and intentionally tries to communicate their thoughts and ideas in clear and correct ways, the outcome is a piece of writing that they can be proud of and that can be shared with the broader community: whether it be the broader academic community or a group of close friends.
Recently, while writing a research paper for my Earth Science class, I found myself, for the first time in a while, really enjoying the writing process. I had taken the time to do research on my topic, and I had intentionally planned out what I wanted to say in each paragraph of my paper. As I was writing, I was realizing that I had learned a lot about a topic that I originally had known nothing about. This research paper was a way for me to not only explore a previously mysterious topic, but to process and communicate all that I had learned about it through the process of writing. I gained a new appreciation for the purpose of my assignment and found myself thankful for the late night of writing and revising to meet the assignment deadline.
Now, I do realize that sometimes I get overly enthusiastic about seemingly trivial things. However, I wonder if there is a way to bring this kind of excitement and enthusiasm about writing to students who perhaps have a fear of writing. I wonder, if students were able to in some small way appreciate writing as a form of communicating their thoughts and ideas, their aversion to it would decrease. I am not saying that all student-writers need to pull a Tom Cruise and start jumping up and down on a sofa in all their excitement about writing, but I am saying that there is a lot more to writing than just writing to complete an assignment or to receive a grade. The process of writing opens up a myriad of opportunities for communication, learning, and expression, and as writing tutors, we should probably seek to encourage our student-writers with all that the process of writing can offer them.
Communicating the thrill of writing is an important part of the job of a Peer Writing Consultant--and I hope you succeed! Yesterday, I articulated one of the chief joys of Writing Lab work as that moment when someone starts being less concerned with their paper & more concerned with their writing and themselves as a writer.
In the Writing Center, we can help foster this by talking about the purpose of writing: writing-as-learning, writing-as-thinking, writing as connected to reading.
Perhaps we could implement a quote wall (or board) about writing, which people could peruse as they wait for their appointment. There, we could post quotes like:
"We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand." -Cecil Day Lewis
"Those who cannot write well cannot think well. Those who cannot think well have others do their thinking for them." -George Orwell
An honest pleasure in writing is wonderful, but often hard to come by. I, for one, used to hate it. It was hard to think of things, it was hard to write them down and make them go together, and I found little enough joy in the process or the outcome. That changed only gradually. As I wrote more - and I had to keep writing more - it gradually became less reprehensible. That was partly because it grew easier, less laborious, partly because I began to take an interest in the thinking involved. But it wasn't really until I came to college that I could honestly say I liked writing.ReplyDelete
Others may have similar experiences. Writing is hard, and sometimes it's really difficult to see that it is also good.
If there were a quote wall, Sylvia Plath would have her place, with a few choice words for the fainthearted: “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Mr. Steltz, my favorite English teacher in high school, told our AP English class almost everyday, "If you want to be a writer, then you have to write!" At first, I thought he referred to our writing skills, which would make sense; after all, don't they always say practice makes perfect? But your post, Lindsey, makes me wonder now if he was referring to more than how well we can write.ReplyDelete
Last semester, I started writing on my laptop while sitting in the library. I was supposed to be writing a paper, but I started writing something else to try and get my thoughts going. That document is now over 10,000 words long, and is filled with everything from short stories to prayers. I think the simplest way to help students enjoy writing is to encourage them to write. Eschew the papers and typical journal entries. Write about a spring day, or whatever may be on one's mind.
My contribution to a writing quote board, if there were one, would be this: "Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation." Graham Greene.