WriteCast Episode 12: 7 Common Writing Center Myths Debunked
© Walden University Writing Center 2014
[TEASER:] NIK: We wanted to make an episode purely to kind of dispel these seven myths about the Walden Writing Center.
NIK: Welcome to WriteCast, a casual conversation for serious writers. I'm Nikolas Nadeau.
BRITTANY: And I'm Brittany Kallman Arneson.
NIK: In today's episode, we'll address some common myths about what we do here in the Writing Center.
BRITTANY: Yes, our goal for the episode today is actually to dispel some commonly-held myths about the way that our Writing Center works and I think also the way writing centers more generally work. This is something that we encounter when we go to professional conferences, when we chat with people from other writing centers--sort of these common myths about the way that writing centers work and how to interact with them.
NIK: So, Brittany, you were in Orlando, and I'm not really jealous of that...
BRITTANY: [laughing] I just got back from a residency in Orlando, Florida. It was very hot, but inside the cool hotel, I encountered many students, many of whom had great feedback about the writing center but many of whom were confused about how to use our services, what services we even have to offer them, and how best to navigate through the many modes of instruction we offer.
NIK: We often find that students have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for using our services, but we also encounter some common myths, so we wanted to make an episode purely to kind of dispel these seven myths about the Walden Writing Center. And I think a lot of these will also apply to writing centers beyond just here at Walden.
So the first of these myths I don't necessarily hear directly from students, but I often sense it in the e-mails that I receive or in my conversations with students at residencies, is that the writing center is only for struggling writers. Or, in other words, only if I'm a terrible writer should I go to the writing center. Or if my instructor is telling me to go to the writing center, it means that I'm automatically a really bad writer. And of course, we want all writers to use our services, because we believe that all writers can improve, no matter if you're Stephen King or the next amazing scholar in education. Everyone can improve, no matter how experienced or confident you are. So coming to us doesn't mean that you're a bad writer; it means that you're actually confident, it means that you're comfortable enough with your own writing to make yourself a bit vulnerable to have feedback from a living, breathing human being that's just looking out for your best interests here at Walden.
BRITTANY: The next myth is again something that we don't necessarily hear outright from students but something that gets implied, that we infer from student feedback or from things that students write in their instructions to us, and this is that the writing center will fix my draft for me. Now, I don't mean to say that our goal isn't to address issues in a student draft, because that's exactly what we do, but we often have students use words like "edit" or "proofread" or "fix" when they're asking us to address issues in their document. And while this is a service that is offered by fee-based freelance editors outside of the university, our services in the Writing Center are much more instruction-based. So, rather than going in and correcting errors in student writing, our goal is actually to help students become self-editors, to be able to go through your draft and find errors yourself, eventually. Our goal is actually to help students become really effective self-editors, and the way that we do that is by explaining why something could be improved and then providing tools for how to improve it or how to get more information on that particular issue. So, we don't actually go through and fix or edit a document as writing instructors. Instead, we're going to--as our name implies--instruct you on how to address issues that we notice in your writing, and we're going to do that in a kind, constructive way.
NIK: Another comment we hear often about our work, especially given our new scheduling system, is that the Writing Center is always booked solid. Anyone who's sent a paper for me to review knows that the words "always" or "never" are almost always not appropriate and almost never accurate. But we do stress the word "almost" because if you do decide a paper review appointment is the best match for you and you really want that to happen, you might find it difficult to get an appointment, but if you're just a bit persistent, if you check back, do try and try again and really be persistent in that search. We do allow up to one appointment per week. Please try as many times as you're able to find an appointment if that's what's really important to you.
BRITTANY: Another myth that we encounter from students who come to the Writing Center is that if you bring a draft to the Writing Center, your writing instructor might judge you or link the quality of your writing to your ability to produce good work or to generate smart thoughts. And that is something that is so not true. I hope that this will dispel that feeling nervous to come to the Writing Center. What we really want to emphasize is that here in the Writing Center, we really care about students and we really care about you as a writer. So, we're looking at your draft and we're making comments on it because we want to help you improve as a writer, but we're never inferring anything about you or about the quality of you as a person or you as a thinker based on your writing.
NIK: You also want to remember that everyone that provides you feedback is going to give some sort of unique perspective. So, for example, your faculty member, your instructor may have their own particular focus. We might have our own particular focus or our own approach. And if you give your paper to a classmate or to a friend or to a family member, they'll have a different perspective, too, I imagine. So do remember that even if you have someone review the same draft, or a similar draft, they'll probably have a lot of different ideas, and if you find that you're getting similar advice, it's a great idea to ask targeted questions to make sure that one person focuses on something, like paragraph organization or your thesis statement, and maybe someone else can help you focus on other things, like evidence, support, or APA style, or something similar. So, do take charge on that and make sure you're getting the feedback that you need.
BRITTANY: We've also heard students say, "Oh, I can't go to the Writing Center because I'm too early in the writing process" or "Oh, I can't go because I'm too far along in the writing process, I'm practically done." And, actually, you can come to the Writing Center at any stage of the writing process, whether you're at the idea-generating stage, or the polishing stage, or any stage in between. We're happy to take a look at your work through the paper review service, and we also have many, many other services that are targeted towards different stages of the writing process. So, it's really never too early or too late to use the Writing Center. Of course you want to keep in mind, in terms of scheduling a paper review, that you want to leave enough time to incorporate feedback before the due date for your paper. But, again, in terms of the wider range of services that we offer and the wider range of resources that we offer, you can nearly always find a resource that's relevant to whatever it is that you're working on in particular at that moment.
NIK: And lastly, we want to clarify that our paper reviews service is one of the many services we offer here at the Walden Writing Center. It's a great service; we love to give one-on-one feedback to individual students whenever we can, but it's not the only thing and it may not be even the best way to receive our help for every writing problem or question you may have. And so in the next episode here at the WriteCast podcast, we're going to share those options and let you know more services that are available that can best meet your own writing stage or your own question regardless of where you are.
So with that, thanks for listening, and we hope you'll join us for our next episode.
NIK: Have a great day, everyone.
NIK: This podcast is a production of the Walden University Writing Center.
BRITTANY: This episode was produced by me, Brittany Kallman Arneson, my co-host, Nikolas Nadeau, and Anne Shiell.