By Tamara Girardi
Writing's scary, right? If you're nodding your head, I'm with you. If you've tilted your head to the side in confusion, I think you might be an alien.
It's interesting (not you being an alien) because I just started teaching college composition courses again this week. My semester at Westmoreland County Community College began Monday, and already my students are actively discussing their writing strengths and weaknesses and their goals for the semester.
So often, their writing weaknesses intersect with a lack of confidence. They're scared of writing, scared of getting it wrong. I have a tough lesson for them.
You always get it wrong. But in a way, you always get it right, too.
With writing, there are so many factors: content, audience, purpose, delivery. Of course, you can't control all of those things because the way people receive your writing will always vary just by human nature. Five hundred people read an essay. Five hundred people have different reactions. It's life. We interpret and perceive information uniquely.
Furthermore, there's that issue of words. A five hundred word essay includes five hundred opportunities for choosing a substandard word. Is there a better word? A better way to order that sentence? That paragraph?
But I'm also sure that some of those words were perfect. And so were some of those sentences and even those paragraphs.
That's the beauty of writing. One piece of writing is like a gorgeous puzzle the writer has created all on his or her own. Yes, there is some apprehension in that because we all want to be perfect. But the way I see it, it's not possible to be perfect with writing. (A concession: the greats have come close, but even they found flaws in their creations).
No the real lesson here is that once we realize we can't be perfect with writing, we can never be, the more liberating that is.
Then it's time to take chances and to enjoy the process. When it's over, I'm certain my students will be proud of their results. I look forward to those days because that's when we'll look back at these weaknesses and talk about how they've conquered them.