Far From Basic

Too often, the Writing Center is thought of as a remedial service—i.e., going to the Writing Center only after making a poor grade or by the recommendation of a professor. It makes sense, because the Writing Center is the perfect place to go when we want to improve upon a part of our writing or do well on a particularly challenging assignment. But, the truth is that the Writing Center is not a specifically remedial service. When consultants come around to classrooms and talk about the Writing Center, we say that we work with writers at any part of the writing process, and we also emphasize that we work with writers at any comfort level with writing.

That one important fact tends to be overlooked: the Writing Center is just as useful of a place for any who consider themselves to be skilled writers.

J.R.R. Tolkien had C.S. Lewis. Virginia Woolf had the Bloomsbury Group. Dorothy Parker had the Algonquin Round Table. And those scholarly journals we have to read for class? They’re peer reviewed. Many of the greatest writers of our time, and the people who make a living researching and writing, seek out the help of others. Writing is a collaborative process, and seeking the advice, feedback, or help of another is not a remedial action—I would actually argue that it’s an advanced writing skill to develop.

Writing is deeply personal. Somehow, we feel that when we put words on paper, others are going to evaluate us in terms of what we write. Do I come across as uninformed? Narrow-minded? Abrasive? It can be nerve wracking to actually hand our paper to someone else and get their feedback because we want to come across as intelligent, likeable people and we never know how someone will react to what we have written.

That, however, is the beauty of it! By sharing our writing with others, such as in a Writing Center session, we can get valuable feedback that continues to improve our writing.

Put yourself in the shoes of Virginia Woolf or J.R.R. Tolkien. Your heart and soul has been made tangible in the form of ink on a page, and you have to hand it over to a peer who you admire for their intelligence and writing prowess. Your hands shake as they leaf through the pages because your words are your most inner truths, and you want them to be impressed. But, stop and think. Do you just want to impress them? Or, do you want them to ask you questions and make suggestions so that the truth of your soul is seen clearly and truthfully by all who may read it?

Think about meeting with a consultant in the Writing Center more along those lines. Ensuring that your writing is clear and powerful through peer review is not remedial or basic. It’s advanced. Coming in to the Writing Center displays a care for your writing that someone writing at a remedial or basic level would not display. Working with a writing consultant is your chance to continue building your writing and revision skills, because it is people who seek out practice and improvement who become notable—those who are comfortable with letting their skills remain as they are will eventually be surpassed.

NPG Ax140432; Lady Ottoline Morrell; Maria Huxley (nÈe Nys); Lytton Strachey; Duncan Grant; Vanessa Bell (nÈe Stephen) by Unknown photographer
The Bloomsbury group consisted of famous English writers such as Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster.
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
Students working in the Bellarmine Writing Center.
Students working in the Bellarmine Writing Center.

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