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  • Writer's picturejmblanusa

I Hate to Write, Which is Why I'm a Good Writing Tutor

I hate to write, which is one of the reasons I’m a good writing tutor. It’s a paradox, or so it seems, because I’m also a very good writer. I’ve had many papers published, have written a doctoral dissertation, and when I was in school many of my papers were used as exemplars. And when I finally get my “seat” in the chair and start to write I often get so engrossed I lose track of time, ignore phone calls, pleas for dinner, and stay awake all night rethinking what I just wrote and how I might want to revise it.

I love to think though, and I spend hours deconstructing and building on ideas. Doing that means I often have to write.

So I’ve learned how to deal with this “hate” and just do it – well.

Because I hate to write, I think I can relate to what’s going on in the minds of my students. I know that feeling of dread, the anxiety, the frustration, the nervousness, the challenge of not knowing how to put “it” into words, and especially how I’d much rather do something else. Anything else, rather than write!

To get over these obstacles I’ve learned how to use a number of different “tricks” or techniques to deal with my obstinence and loathing. I’ve also learned to say it’s okay that I don’t want to do this, but yet, I have to.

So when I tutor I can empathize with my students, who seem to be procrastinating or lazy or defensive or resistant, and deal with what all those behaviors, thoughts and feelings are about. I can especially empathize with the lack of confidence and fear of not knowing where to even start, let alone write an entire five paragraph essay.

I also tap into the “tricks” that might work for them. I offer things that work for me, many of which may sound silly or frivolous or a waste of time, but have proven, time and again, to be effective.

I ask students to explore what might work for them, and to be serious about tapping into what may feel like an indulgence as a way to get started, to calm their fears, to get into a good head space, and to feel they’re not being denied something. We all know from dieting how ineffective being denied something works, don't we?!

But the other thing I offer, that intersects with the above exploration, is helping students express themselves, say what they really think, who they are, and what they want to say in the way they want to express it. I engage with them, ask them questions, and follow-up with more questions that show I’m genuinely paying attention, and that I care.

It frees them, and they often find themselves able to say things they hadn’t been able to put into words before orally, let alone on paper. It becomes a thoughtful conversation, that leaves them feeling heard, and ready to start at least wanting to try to write, or do whatever they can to write, even if they still don’t want to.

It’s how we start, and progress from here. And it’s worked time and again, for over 35 years.

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