If there is one piece of advice I can offer a student wanting to get the most out of the Writing Center, it is this: be prepared. I have heard it said that you will only receive from a situation what you put into it, and I proved this today. My task for my Writing Center Theory and Practice class was to sign up for a session as a writer and then make note of what happened in the session so that I could write about it in this blog later on. This seemed simple enough, so I did not think too much of it. I knew my schedule was somewhat heavy this week, so I decided to schedule my appointment in the middle of the week; that way, I would have time to craft a proper draft for my assignment — which was due on Friday — and time afterwards to make adjustments as necessary.
When Wednesday rolled around, it dawned on me that I was not on pace with the schedule I had set for myself. I was still in the midst of the research process, and I had yet to start on my essay. As such, I decided to get it together and at least start an outline and even write a few introductory paragraphs for the essay. I managed to get a few things on paper before my session, but I was slightly disappointed in myself for waiting so long to get started. As such, I walked in to my appointment somewhat discouraged already, but I kept a positive attitude. If I had learned anything during the semester about the Writing Center, it was that I could at least expect some solid constructive criticism and maybe even some suggestions on how to move forward with the essay.
The session itself turned out to be very helpful. My consultant was friendly and knowledgeable, yet she let me guide the session in the way that I saw fit. She asked me what I wanted to work on, and we were able to address my concerns. I also experienced firsthand how helpful it can be to read your own writing out-loud to someone else. This task can help you catch your own mistakes much more easily than you might if you just re-read the essay silently to yourself. While I read aloud, I noticed that some of my sentences were much too long and clunky. They did not flow the way I had envisioned, and my consultant was in agreement with me when I pointed that out. However, we worked through those sentences and broke them up into more coherent pieces, which made the paragraph much stronger. I really benefited from having that other person with whom I could collaborate.
Although the session did help me a lot, I feel that I could have gotten more out of it had I prepared more to bring in. For instance, if my essay had been further developed, I could have received more feedback on how to improve upon my organization as well as my syntax. Herein lies my lesson, and the lesson I will stress for future writing center attendees: be prepared, particularly if there is something specific you want to work on with us. I know it can be easy to expect the consultant to do the job for you, but it is incredibly important to put forth the effort in terms of bringing a copy of your assignment and what you’ve started on, even if it is just notes or a rough outline. The consultant can really only work with what you bring to the table, so make sure to put your best foot forward. Help us help you!
This blog entry was written as part of English 251: Writing Center Theory and Practice. Lina, the author, is learning to become a writing consultant at Bellarmine.