Written by: Alexa Q.
I’m going to admit something that seems counterintuitive for a Writing Center consultant: I don’t really like writing. Shocking, right? But it’s true. To me, writing is a chore. It’s similar to cooking: I like food, and cooking is a way for me to have food, but the process itself isn’t all that fun. That being said, training and working for the University Writing Center has taught me how to, if not enjoy writing, then at least dislike it less.
First and foremost, I had to figure out exactly why I didn’t like writing. I had to examine my relationship with writing and the written word. Looking back on my life, I realized that the vast majority of my experiences with writing have come from school assignments—essays, to be more specific. For a craft as creative and individual as writing, all those restrictions that come with assigned essays just don’t work. At least, not for me. It’s not fun to have to constantly write within someone else’s limits on my topic, my word count, my structure, my style (I’m fluent in MLA), and even the words I’m allowed to use (so far, I’ve used first person 19 times and 11 contractions) If that’s my only exposure to writing, then of course I’m not going to like it. So I had to learn to branch out.
While training to become a writing consultant, I was forced out of my analytical-essay-comfort-zone. I had to write this thing called a collage essay that I ended up making into a combination of various personal narratives, interviews, writing center pedagogies, and sarcasm. The sarcasm was essential. By the time I finished it, it wasn’t just an essay anymore; it was creative nonfiction. I’m not much interested in nonfiction, but the “creative” part intrigued me. So much so that I decided to make a minor out of it. Yeah, I know, I’m a creative writing minor that doesn’t like writing. The contradictions keep on coming. But it’s a way to force myself to think outside the box when it comes to writing.
My favorite part about creative writing is, well, the creativity. I’m learning to play with different forms and structures and voices. And this playfulness has bled into my boring essays, too. When I sit down to yet another 1,000-word, MLA-style essay that requires a clear thesis and at least 3 academic sources, the first thing I do is plan out what voice I’m going to use; will I be funny? sarcastic? angry? exasperated? excitable? completely emotionally detached? All are plausible options that I’ve used in essays. I’ve also learned to stretch the limits of my assignments. The rubric doesn’t include any stipulations about academic language? Time to break out the contractions and first person. The professor offhandedly mentions that we can be “creative” with our responses? It’s now a poem about how much I hate mosquitoes. I’m supposed to compare a boring book I didn’t like to another work? Guess I’ll compare it to a Disney movie. This short fiction assignment has literally no restrictions except for the length? My entire story is gonna be written in second-person imperative—yes, I’m telling you, the reader, what to do. I have done all of these, and I got As on them too.
That’s another unexpected side effect of finally being fed up with boring academic writing. My professors seem to like my writing more. Now that I found ways to make writing less loathsome, I’m able to put more of myself into them. Professors can usually tell when you hate something in their classes, and believe it or not, they tend to prefer that you don’t hate their assignments.
All of this is not to say that I like writing now, or that you have to suddenly like writing in order to pass your classes. Writing is still a chore; it’s something that I’d prefer not to do. But now that I’ve really examined—and challenged—my relationship with writing, and now that I’ve found little ways to make it more bearable, I’ve found aspects of writing that I do like: communicating my ideas, looking at things with a new perspective, experimenting with language, coming up with the most ridiculous things I can plausibly get away with in an essay, and, of course, helping other people figure out this stuff too.
I’m a writing consultant who doesn’t like writing, and that’s okay, because writing isn’t just about writing—it’s whatever I want it to be.