Being Average

By Allison Wallis

I’m stuck.

Writing can be a conundrum. At least, it is for me. As a student, I’m told to do my best, write in my own voice, include a variety of sources, make an argument, and make a statement. How can I juggle all of this? Isn’t that a lot to ask for a 21 year old whose life experiences are still minimal?

Even now, I’m struggling to write this. I can’t seem to get any sort of important or noteworthy thought to run through my brain and onto paper.

I’m stuck.

What even is my own voice as a writer? I’m not creative in any way, nor do I feel like I have some sort of “uniqueness” that sets me apart. Sure, I understand the basics of grammar, how to structure a sentence, and how to properly organize a paper. But what sort of ideas do I have to offer?

I’m stuck.

I think that a lot of times students feel the way I do right now, trying to write just a little blog post. We think, “I have nothing to say” or “I’m just not good at this sort of thing” and we frustrate ourselves to the point of giving up.

This past week, the writing tutors talked about an article titled “I Just Wanna Be Average.” The author remembered a time when he was mistakenly placed in a remedial school, and one of his classmates uttered that statement to his teacher, “I just wanna be average…” And in a way, I feel the same. A lot of times, I think students feel so much pressure to excel that they lose the motivation to even try, because they think they’re incapable. I’ve done that before. I know I’m not the greatest writer in the world, and at times it can be so frustrating when I fail that later I just decide not to try.

But failure is okay. It’s not the end of the world. Learning is a growing process, and there will always be areas of improvement. Being “average” is nothing to be ashamed of, but don’t let yourself become complacent. On the other hand, remember not to let the pressure or expectation of being the best interfere with your motivation to continually grow in the learning process.

It’s okay to be stuck. But always keep trying.

 

 

 

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Read a Lot, Write a Lot

By: Julia Province

Developing a writing style and an ease about writing can oftentimes be a lifelong and seemingly illusive pursuit. How do I find my own personal writing style? How do I learn to write well and write prolifically? And how can I ease the dread the comes from a glaring blank page or empty screen begging for my words? These are questions everyone who has ever sat down with pen and paper has asked and had to answer. So if these questions haunt your academic nightmares, no worries; you’re far from alone.

I’ll task you with a little experiment. Find two or three of your friends who you feel are skilled or confident writers. Next, ask them what their favorite book is. Chances are, those books will echo the style in which your friends have written their best work. For example, one of your friends may write in a more conversational style; their writing sounds a lot like if the two of you were having a chat, or they were telling you about their day. Maybe this friend’s favorite book was Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, a book casually written about Miller’s own life and personal thoughts. Another one of your friends may write in a more academic style; their writing sounds like it could be found in a work of nonfiction or even a text book. This friend may have chosen a collection of essays or scientific works as their favorite book.

All of this is to say that what we read influences how, and how well, we write. Stephen King put it simply by saying, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot … Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons…” Many times when we think about great writers we think only about the actual writing. But as King stated, so much of being a writer is reading.

Reading for enjoyment builds numerous skills a strong writer needs. As I talked about previously, reading material you enjoy can help you identify your own style: how you write. Reading can also help to uncover genres of interest, like fiction or nonfiction, sci fi or fairy tales, horror or fantasy, history or science. Spending time in all kinds of books also teaches basic writing skills like punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary in a very holistic way.

The more time you spend reading from great authors, the more you will start writing like them. And when the writer’s block sets in, now you have a great excuse to sit down with your favorite story and call it studying.

What Does it Mean to be a Writing Tutor?

By Laura McAndrew

Almost two months ago, my journey to being a Writing Lab tutor began. Before I started, I wasn’t exactly sure what being a tutor would entail. I was under the impression that I would be more of an editor than anything else. I was somewhat anxious to begin the job because I didn’t know if I was qualified to “edit” someone’s paper. I was afraid students would come to me expecting to automatically get an “A” after I helped them. I was terrified of the thought of letting students down.

Then the day came.

The day I had been anticipating for most of the summer.

Writing Lab Training day.

I came into the training day expecting to learn how to edit, but I came out realizing my real purpose in the Writing Lab. I was a tutor. What does that mean; to be a tutor? A tutor doesn’t make writing perfect. A tutor helps students learn to be better writers.

This new purpose encouraged me, and helped me to be at ease about my new job. I was no longer afraid that a student would be upset when they didn’t get an “A” on the paper we worked on together. If they came back upset about their grade, that just meant we would work on the next paper even harder.

That’s right! I said “work on together”. That’s the purpose of the Writing Lab. The Writing Lab is about working in collaboration with students to create better writers.

With this newfound confidence, I began the first day of tutoring. I was still a little nervous  about certain things, but I knew that there were plenty of coworkers to help me if I needed them.

I have enjoyed being able to help students at MBU. I have learned so much during these first couple of months and there is still more I will continue to learn. This experience has helped me to build relationships with students and to improve my own writing skills.

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the rest of the year!

From Anxiety to Confidence: Changing Your Perspective on Writing

By Allison Wallis

Writing is a deeply personal action—it requires that we bare our hearts and minds to others, making our thoughts a readable text that others can actually see. As such, writing can be an emotional outlet to people who need to comprehend or untangle their emotions and feelings. Other times, however, it can be a deeply distressing task to some, especially when that work must be presented to others like teachers, classmates, or tutors.

I tend to relate to that latter perspective on writing; that is, it’s something to be feared. As a socially awkward introvert, I dread the judgement of others on my writing, especially since it is often a personal reflection of myself. Probably the most horrifying moments of my college career were those spent in one-on-one meetings with professors who silently read over a paper, all the while making notes and never once acknowledging that I was sitting right next to them. I could only think of how they must find my papers to be awful, lacking evidence, boring, and full of errors.

I’m sure that many students can relate to that feeling of dread every time a professor assigns a new paper, or requires others to peer-review work. In light of this, I’d like to encourage those who feel this way to try to find a different perspective. Sharing our thoughts, ideas, and writings, though difficult, will only make us better writers. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and collaborate with others, we tend to gain new insights into both our writing and our writing processes. If the thought of a professor reviewing your work frightens you, bring it to a friend or someone you trust. There are several tutors in the Writing Lab, myself included, who know how it feels to be discouraged or afraid to share their writing and can empathize with you.

Over the last year, I’ve learned how important it is for my own success to share my writing with others. I’ve gotten to be more excited about writing rather than to dread it. And I’ve seen my writing improve with this perspective shift. I’ve learned when writing is seen less as a chore or something to be feared and more as a tool for success and sharing knowledge, it becomes easier to tackle that process and to collaborate with others in order to craft those ideas.

If you ever decided to change your perspective on writing and to reach out for someone to share your work with, come to the Writing Lab! Myself and many others will be happy to help you towards success and becoming a better writer.