Dear me...


Dear me,

It's not about you, but it will affect you, this work. Expect that. Learn to embrace that--the fact that your writing voice isn't in the limelight--it shouldn't be in the limelight, like some sort of escritorial savior on the lookout for less "experienced" writing that needs a crutch, ready to swoop in and redeem whatever "needs" redeeming.

You're not a crutch. You're not even a walking boot.

Examples of being a crutch/walking boot:
1. "If I was writing the thesis, I might word it something like this..."
2. "What about using this phrasing for the transition?"
3. "I'll rewrite this part of the paragraph, and you can fill in the rest."

Don't get me wrong: It's tempting to say and/or do any of the aforementioned "helpful" actions/statements, and, admittedly, you probably will a few times, when you're crunched for time in a given session or when you're frustrated and feeling unproductive and unhelpful.

But that's when it's important to remember: It's not about you. I say that with all grace, because you will forget that sometimes, and you will want to superimpose your own voice over your peer's voice sometimes, because it's easier and more familiar. But while you'll feel vindicated in the moment--we did it, we finally phrased that thesis in an appropriately succinct, coherent way!--the fruit you're looking at isn't your peer's. It's yours, and that's not why you're consulting them, to reap your own fruit.

Examples of NOT being a crutch/walking boot:
1. "The way the thesis reads now leaves me with these questions..."
2. "Here's what the transition between these paragraphs needs to accomplish..."
3. "Don't worry about making this paragraph pretty right now. Just talk to me, like we're having a conversation about your topic--what do you want to say?" *And then take notes. You're writing their words in your notes, so if they use the notes you write to craft "pretty" sentences later, they'll be confidently reworking their own language.

An advisor-crutch holds the pencil more than the advisee. An advisor-walking boot doesn't hold the pencil, but still speaks more than the advisee. A writing consultant--not a crutch, not a boot--lets the advisee hold the pencil more often than not and listens more than she speaks. Asking questions (see examples above) lets the advisee process the how and why of writing, which might not--BAM!--produce a large quantity of fruit in the moment (i.e. 3 paragraphs revised in an hour vs. 3 pages), but in the long run, that same slow-growing fruit is stronger and sweeter. It's not about producing one great essay, it's about the advisee understanding the process of writing so that, someday, they'll be confidently reaping their own fields and won't have to come in for agro-writing lessons. By asking the right questions, you'll be getting them to think about why they make the writing choices they do, and how each choice they make might amplify their argument or more directly reach their audience. You're getting them to think beyond the semester research paper and a letter grade--you're shaping them to understand the power that writing can have--that their voice can have--to contribute to a larger conversation.

It's not about you. But it will affect you. You'll grow in patience and humility, recognizing the place for your voice and the way in which it is to serve the growth of your peer's. You'll learn to adapt with grace and ask more questions that in turn lead to answers (which your advisee often knows, they just don't realize it!). And, above all, you too will be fulfilled in the slow-growing fruit as, over time, you begin to see your advisee's confidence giving way to a unique voice that isn't yours. (Because, hey, the more voices, the more plentiful and globally useful the garden!)

So, no, it's not about you. But it will affect you. And that, too, is worth something.

Happy writing,
Shannon

July 13, 2020

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