May 9, 2013
I’m a professional writer.
That means that I make my living through my knowledge of the writing process, my own writing, and my paycheck hinges on my ability to communicate through little symbols on paper.
Not everyone is a professional writer. And I know this.
Most of my students learn as much writing as is needed to write reports, essays, or applications. That’s fine. I do, however, expect them to try and learn basics like sentence structure and critical thinking skills. Over the years, I’ve had students who learned barely enough to do this. They complained, year after year, that writing was hard, but they never made the effort to change that.
Recently, though, I helped a new student.
While she’s an English Language Learner, she’s from South America, meaning she doesn’t have the tether other ELL students have by having Mexico so close. As such, she had to deal not only with a new language, but also with cultural adaptation. Her first essays months ago were choppy, barely-legible series of sentences. She wasn’t dumb. Far from it. She could speak well enough, though it took some translation to get her ideas across. As she continued to visit us, though, and as I tutored her a few more times, I noticed a definite improvement in her writing.
Her last session with me was her reflective essay on how she’s improved as a writer. It was actually a well-written essay and had a line that I’ll never forget.
“I still think of writing as climbing up a hill, but at least I get a great view when I finish.”
That right there is the sentiment I wish EVERY student held close.
The writing process, like I’ve written before, is HARD. I’m not sure many writers actually enjoy the process, but we all love the final product. It also highlights the kind of attitude I wish more people would foster.
Yes, the ride may be rough. Yes, you’re not going to have a blast pouring over notes. Yes, the headaches and lost free time suck.
But guess what? You’re better for it at the end. I hear so many students complaining about this or that being hard. They don’t have enough time. They have too much to study and it piles on later.
Wake up earlier. Learn to make quick meals. Make a schedule.
None of these things are particularly fun, but I’d rather have a little annoyance spread out over my day than one HUGE problem later. Good grades, or whatever the goal may be, don’t just arrive at your doorstep. They wait for you. I didn’t decide to wait to just meet some publisher who would give me a huge advance so I could sit and calmly write my book. I’m working part time and taking odd teaching jobs so I could write it as I saw fit. And that’s what she and other students have done. They’ve taken the initiative.
Few things in life get handed to you. The things you really want? You have to go after them yourself.