Last Friday our Bellarmine Writing Center was able to attend a conference with professionals and undergraduates from other university writing centers in Kentucky. The SWCA Writing Center Conference at the University of Kentucky was the first writing center conference I have ever attended. I have been to many conferences before, but never one that focused on the role of writing centers. The theme was Creativity, Collaboration, and Community, and each presenter touched on these aspects of a writing center in unique ways. As a staff, we gained valuable new insights on presentations from other writing centers on such topics as their success and downfalls of different social media projects or dealing with stress (for writers and consultants).
We had the chance to share our own experiences as well. We presented on one way we approach addressing misconceptions about academic writing at Bellarmine. Specifically, we introduced the Prezi presentation that we created for Freshman Focus classes. Analyzing our presentation and outreach helped us to look at our community here at Bellarmine and how we have embraced these themes of creativity, collaboration, and community without necessarily realizing it.
While it was extremely exciting and valuable to bounce ideas off of the other writing centers as we shared common and different experiences, my moment of real clarity came during the keynote speaker presentation. This “speaker” was not one individual but a collective panel of creative minds sharing their art and experiences with us. Everything from paintings of cakes, to poems, to free verse hip hop and acappella performances was displayed in the name of creativity, collaboration, and community.
But how does all of this relate to writing centers? It reminded me that a writing center is not a hospital. Writing assignments are not wounds. Students that come to see us are not patients, and we are not nurses or doctors. In the stress and complications of being a student, we often lose sight of what writing is and all of the beauty behind it. Whether it is a scientific report, persuasive research essay, or fictional narrative, our writing is a work of art. Each of us is an artist with something beautiful to create when we write, even for academia. As consultants, it is not our job to fix writing, but to uplift and help it be appreciated in the best way possible. Our collaboration with fellow students can help us all reflect and develop as writers, and we can build upon our campus community by helping appreciate and grow our creativity through our writing endeavors.
Our misconceptions of writing come from many places, but perhaps the most important one for a writing center to combat is the lack of realization that every single thing we write is a creative expression worth appreciating. We are all writers, and it would be a shame to never acknowledge that even the most mundane of assignments truly is a unique and beautiful thing we have created. A writing center exists to help improve writing, but it should also serve as a reminder that writing is a work of art and acknowledge the artists, our students.