I’m a Writing Center Tutor – Now What?

By September 20, 2011Peer Writing Tutoring

Even though I’m only at the start of my career as a new DePaul University Writing Center tutor, it feels like I’ve been getting on-the-job training all my life.  Sitting in the “new tutors” class or around the Loop and Lincoln Park offices, I’ve already noticed that the conversation inevitably swings toward past writing experiences, past jobs, majors and interests.  After listening to several of my classmates describe how they write, I realized that although I’m just beginning my tenure as a tutor, my everyday life as a writer has been more-than-adequate preparation.

As a graduate student in the MA of English program, writing is an academic pursuit.  I read novels, and what I think about them emerges in synthesized and digested form through writing.  It’s a process that still amazes me, the way my ideas somehow organize themselves into coherent arguments, echoing debates going on across oceans and centuries.  In any given quarter, I’ll write about nineteenth century Gothic romances, about Chaucer, about Shakespeare, even comic books, and still I write more.  My intellectual development can be tracked through academic essays and reactions to literature, starting with my first book.

More important to me, however, is the incredible amount of writing that goes in my private life, and I don’t think I’m unique in this at all.  Talk to any student and more than likely, they spend a major amount of the day writing emails, IMing with friends, making lists and sticky-note reminders, setting down rambling diary entries, and even doodling.  I love making lists, even when I know that I could easily keep the items in my head or if it’s not that important.  Something about putting words down on paper makes my thoughts feel permanent, important, special.  I can’t paint, play an instrument (oh I wish), or write any poetry except the kind no one should have to read, but when I write – for class, for fun, for myself – I am creating.

These silly, inconsequential forms of writing don’t feel earth-shattering, and our grades don’t depend on how successful that handwritten note is in persuading our roommates that we didn’t steal their ketchup.  These notes and memos simply help us survive the day and communicate in efficient ways, and we don’t really think twice about how amazing our writing really is.  Even a single sentence can say volumes – just think of William Carlos Williams and his red wheelbarrow!

The point is, writing isn’t just for a specific time and place.  Our academic writing may get more attention, but the small acts of writing we participate in throughout the day are just as important.  Writing is for life, part of life, and used in every aspect of my life.  I could say that writing is in for the long haul, and so am I.  So as I begin the process of becoming a full-fledged DePaul Writing Tutor, I’m starting to wonder how my idea of writing will change.  Will there be a moment of special insight, or will I think of writing much as I always have?  Will I gain a new understanding of my own writing process?  How will my method of writing change, or the places and moods I choose to write in?  I look at this quarter as a chance for experimentation and learning, and look forward to blogging about what I discover.