In the Writing Studio, we hear students say things like “I’m a bad writer” or “I’m not a good writer.” You may be one of these students. Writing insecurities are common, even for those of us who work at the Writing Studio. Since our focus at the Writing Studio is to make better writers (rather than better writing), I turned to my fellow tutors to see how they respond to hearing “I’m a bad writer” or “I’m not a good writer” in an appointment, what they think makes a good writer, and how they combat their own writing insecurities. Here are some of the highlights:
Gabriella: “Good writing is a myth–it’s a completely subjective construction. Different disciplines require different kinds of writing, and no one is well-versed in all of them. The first step to getting over the idea that you’re a bad writer is to understand that, internalize it, and remember that when you sit down to write anything. Sometimes the feeling that you’re not a good writer is the simple result of not being comfortable with writing, and the way you combat that is through practice. Confidence is key. My writing is never perfect, but I enjoy doing it, and I do it with some success because I’ve practiced enough to become confident in my finished product. I still frequently make simple (and sometimes not so simple) mistakes in my writing, but I keep at it because I know that effective writing is so useful as you go through life.”
Alina: “A good writer is one who strives to improve and does the revision necessary. Almost no one is a good first-draft writer. Good writers are those who have put forth significant effort in revision and have gotten help with their weaker areas. By getting help and working to improve, you have what it takes to be a good writer.”
Natalie: “What makes a good writer isn’t defined by one single thing. There are many different aspects that come together to produce a piece of writing, and I would highlight to the student the aspects they’re particularly good at. I would then say that the one aspect every good writer shares is a passion for their writing.”
Dylan M: “‘The first step towards becoming a good writer is to understand that no one’s writing isn’t perfect, the second is to keep considering ways of improving our writing.’ A good writer is someone who puts in the practice and reflective work necessary for composing and revising their work.”
Leah: “No Worries. Writing takes practice. I am glad that you came in so that we can work on some of the concerns you want to address.”
Nellie: “‘Good writers’ are writers who write regularly and often. Anyone can be a good writer. If we focus on what’s working well in your work and tinker with the things that are not, your writing will definitely improve.”
How do our tutors handle their own writing insecurities?
Gabriella: “I try to get as many eyes on my writing as possible. I read my writing out loud to my dog so that I can rephrase phrases that sound awkward when they’re spoken. I send my papers to my mom and to my boyfriend to try to gauge if my writing makes sense to an audience that isn’t familiar with my subject-matter. I try to get my peers/classmates to read my writing and get their feedback. If at all possible, I like to submit early drafts to my professors for their input/criticisms. I also make frequent appointments with tutors at the writing studio. I also try to remember that everyone has a unique voice/writing style, and I try to maintain my own when I’m taking in all of the criticisms I’ve asked for from others.”
Alina: “Personally? I google a lot. I look up how to do things and see what better writers do. I also get help; I’ve gone to tutors and teachers for help before. Primarily, if I don’t know how to do something or I’m unsure, I don’t jut guess or call it good enough. I look up the answer or ask someone who would know, then I try to remember it.”
Dylan M: “To combat my own writing insecurities I usually will take some time away from the assignment to read or watch a tv show, taking time to absorb how the writers are doing things and then trying to incorporate those techniques into my own writing.”
Leah: “I take my time. Take it piece by piece or question by question , if it is a prompt.”
Nellie: “I keep writing. I practice recursive writing. I step away from my work and return with fresh eyes.”
In tutoring sessions, when the “I’m not a good writer” bit comes up, I usually say this: “There is no such thing as good writing, only good editing. Good writers put forth the effort to revise, learn, and grow.” This is echoed by what many of my fellow tutors are saying here. It’s important to remember that when it comes to writing assignments, you can only do so much with the time and the resources you have at your disposal (like the Writing Studio!), so give yourself a little grace.
-A Blog Post by Emily Pierce
Emily is a second-year Master’s student in Literary Studies. Her research focuses on multicultural literature of the American South, and she is currently writing her thesis on Lillian Smith and Foucault. Out of the various projects people bring to the Writing Studio, personal statements are her favorite. She loves watching people grow into better writers and is excited to be working in the Writing Studio for her last semester.