Remembering that Writing is an Art: Reflections on SWCA-KY 15

Last Friday our Bellarmine Writing Center was able to attend a conference with profIMG_2235(2)essionals 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.

Dara Ricketts

More photos from SWCA-KY 15

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Tackling Writer’s Block

Blog, blogging, writing center, Bellarmine, need to write this blog, the blog is late already, not sure what to write about, writing process, getting started can be the worst sometimes, how do I start, how do you get over that hump, writers block, how to end writers block. I should write a blog about tackling writer’s block.

Some days when you have to write something it feels like it is impossible. As a writer who has spent their fair share of time punching that writer’s block wall trying to break it down, I want to share my tips with you. Before you bruise those knuckles any further, try these simple tricks to get past one of the most frustrating parts of the writing process, getting started.

If the writing is for a class, revisit the prompt and the material. Oftentimes we get an assignment and put it off so long that trying to start the paper is easier said than done. If a week has gone by since you talked about the topic you are asked to write about, it can be difficult to revert your brain to those days long passed. Looking back at the prompt and revisiting the subject matter you have to elaborate on can remind you of what you needed to write about and give you fresh ideas. Try skimming back over the readings, glancing at your notes, and letting the class discussions come back to you.

So you remember everything you learned and how to apply it the prompt, but you are still not sure how to get started. Never fear, writer’s block will succumb like any villain, we just have to stay resilient. Outlining your main ideas and supporting evidence gives you the chance to create a map for yourself that you can use to follow as you write your paper. It can be hard to know how to put all the information we need into the paper, but our handy dandy outline will lead the way. By organizing your main ideas into a set structure, you can keep track of exactly what you want to say and when to say it.

Now I know what you are thinking, how does this help if you never even got that far? Sometimes you just do not know what you want to write about at all. For this problem, I offer the simplest and yet least tried option to ending writer’s block: write. That is correct, I do in fact mean take out a piece of paper and a pencil and physically start writing. Write down every word, thought, phrase, or sentence that pops into your head. It will surprise you how quickly those things will flow into ideas that you can use to start forming your paper.

Starting a paper can feel like trying to get into an ice cold swimming pool, but nothing gets you used to that water faster than simply jumping right into the deep end. Take the time to look back over your materials and your exact purpose, try and outline what you want to address, and when in doubt, write it out. Writer’s block may be a frustrating aspect of the writing process, but it is nothing to keep you from completing a successful paper.

No one likes asking for help, but no one likes working on a troublesome paper either.

We all have those papers due in the morning after a long and miserable day, and we are lucky to get started before midnight. By the time 3 a.m. rolls around we conclude the paper and hope to goodness it is readable. The worst part about this scenario is that we rarely want to ever revisit that paper.

Even as a writing consultant, I do not enjoy trying to manage my own procrastination all-nighter essay the next day. Yet, I made an appointment in the Writing Center that next day, and it was the most helpful thing I have done for my writing all semester.

My session at the Writing Center gave me a chance to meet with someone about my paper and give me more confidence. The consultant helped me to work on flow and clarity, not to mention some large grammatical mistakes. There is a lot that you can miss or mess up when writing a paper while at the top of your game, not to mention doing it in the wee hours of the morning. Working with a consultant helps make facing the paper a little more bearable; it helps catch the problems without causing you to be miserable again.

I even learned how to be a better consultant myself from flipping roles from consultant to  writer/student. I learned about being an ally to a writer and making the burden of a paper a little easier.

No one likes asking for help, but no one typically likes working on a troublesome paper either. The Writing Center consultants are here to make that paper a little less ominous, and we are ready to be a friend, guide, and coach for you. I may be working as a consultant, but I also feel greatly helped by the advice and support that I received as a writer and student. No matter how late the paper was written, how seemingly boring the assignment, or how experienced the writer, the Writing Center will be there to help in every way that we can.