On Writing It Down

Laney here! I’ve been wanting to start a blog for our Writing Center for about a year now, and the idea re-emerges any time anyone on our staff says something particularly magically illuminating–so basically, every day.

Tutoring in the Writing Center is interesting, because there’s no one way to do it well, no one set of characteristics that add up to a good tutor. We get a few hours of training each semester, but after that, getting better at our job is largely an individual pursuit, coordinating with yourself across appointments to try and nail down what went well or what didn’t work at all. We’re also undergraduate students, still figuring out for ourselves what it means to write well, and what we need to improve our own writing. Few, if any of us, will go onto Writing Center work after graduation, and yet this job is still really important to us–we’re constantly trying to get better and make the Center better, contributing also to the broader Writing Center community through MAWCA and IWCA conferences.

This spring, our Graduate Fellow Sarah Miller has been guiding us on the journey of generating a mission statement—a process of dialogue within our organization to meta-analyze the things we usually take for granted: why we do what we do, who we do it for, what our role on campus is. My vision for this blog is a space tutors have to break down their own work (what works and what doesn’t), as well as its meaning in larger contexts: the social space of the campus, the political space of a liberal arts college in America, the intellectual space of a writing and ideas salon. We talk a lot about our role and the “authority” that comes with it, even as we know that the best conferences often happen when we collectively work to break down that power differential. We talk a lot about why we like the Writing Center, but also what we don’t like about it, what it reveals to us about academia and the world. We also talk a lot about the great projects we have going on in our Center, which deserve their time in the spotlight.

As tutors at the Writing Center, we know the transformative power of writing. It takes something that exists in our heads, or in the ephemeral space of a conversation between two co-workers, and makes it real in a way it wasn’t before, more permanent. Tutors work in the W.C. for three years maximum, often for only one or two years at a time. The knowledge we produce among ourselves is, as a result, so much more transient, but being constantly reproduced and transmitted. This blog is a place to fossilize those processes, freeze them in time so it isn’t lost while we go forward—in the Writing Center and beyond.