Let’s face it: writing is hard. Why else would even writers who enjoy language and stringing together words put off their deadlines until the last possible moment? Why do students agonize over papers and businesses hire outside writers to streamline their communication?
Writing is another form of communication that often stresses people out because ideas are conveyed in writing, rather than with graphics, sound, or face-to-face conversation. For some people, losing the added benefit of a vocal tone or certain essential nonverbal gesture can feel crippling.
Even the most experienced writers, who know grammar and sentence structure back to front and can knock out a paragraph in a couple minutes, struggle to convey their meaning skillfully. Good writing often requires solid arguments, extensive research, and a point. To produce an engaging piece, a “good” writer must also pay attention to their readership and adjust their storytelling techniques accordingly.
In my own writing, I struggle to break out of the cumbersome essay format drilled into me at school. I love long, sometimes unwieldy sentences as long as they sound grandiose. Adjectives are my very best friends. Of course, particularly with the advent of the internet, readers are now much more apt to read simple sentences and skim bolded words and bullet points.
Obviously, I find that difficult. (Just see my above sentence.)
But even with the problems I encounter daily as a writing major, I’m still lucky. I’ve worked hard to become a decent writer, but some of my abilities came from childhood and maybe even genetics. (My grandmother is a retired English teacher and librarian.)
Until recently, I thought of writing as easy, or at least natural. I’d agonize over sentences, but at least I never had to worry if they were grammatically incorrect; I’ve always been that weirdo obsessed with the proper placement of commas. Before I started working as a peer tutor at my university’s writing center, I couldn’t understand why other people struggled so much with the writing process. My first tutorials all took place online, and I’m shamed to admit that I went overboard in critiquing some students’ academic papers when I was supposed to be guiding them through the process.
However, once I was experienced enough to start face-to-face tutorials, I looked those students in the eye and realized that they’re plenty smart–they just have trouble getting words on the page, or at least putting them in the right order. Some just can’t wrap their heads around APA style, and who can blame them for that? (For the uninitiated, it’s TERRIBLE to learn.) Many of the students who seek help at the writing center may not have the same innate grasp of English I acquired through my years of reading everything in sight.
In the end, though, I think we’re all just hoping to pass our classes.
[Note: This blog post was originally published on my first attempt at a blog on October 15, 2014]