My older brother Tanis has always told me that I have so much potential. He’s been pushing me to better myself every step of the way in sports, music, and school. For twenty-one years I’ve been told I have potential, but now I realize how to finally actualize it. Over the years, Tanis has remained consistent with my untapped potential theory by replying to every essay I have him proofread with, “It’s good, it flows like your train of thought, it just also doesn’t develop many thoughts.” He would always tell me that I establish ideas but never really follow through. Clearly, I have recognized that as my Achilles heel and have been trying to rehabilitate it. Since I’ve been viewing writing as something more serious than just twitter tweets, I’ve seen two forms of improvement in my writing. They come from the shift in my attitude directed towards writing and my mentality towards life.
My first change came much to my girlfriend’s dismay… I’m falling in love with writing. Platonically of course; although, some #2 pencils do make me feel some type of way. I see writing as a cleansing process that emphasizes rituals of life. Whether it be an assignment, a journal, or a free write, they all act as a vehicle for expression. Through writing, you can hear someone’s voice and inner ambitions if done right. This realization has improved my writing because it has taught me to craft my own voice. “Sometimes writers come with a lack of trust on their own perceptions of things,” (Gillespie and Lerner 39). From experience it’s clear that the best papers are generated from topics a writer cares about, “so it’s good to help the writer identify parts of the assignment that are meaningful or that draw from his life experiences in some way or that touch on subjects that may be interesting,” (Gillespie and Lerner 39). This ties into my second change, which is a change in my mentality towards life.
The first step is to recognize that I have potential, but what if I don’t do anything with it? Tanis would tell me that I write well but my arguments don’t go anywhere. That’s because I can be the most fluid and creative writer in the world and it still won’t matter if I have nothing to say. I can spend a million-dollar budget on advertisements for my rock band but if our music has no meaning what does it matter? I view the pencil as an extension of my hand. The weapon that doesn’t just reflect my thoughts but becomes my reality. Unfortunately, the rhetoric I use to tell a story is only half the battle; the story itself has to have purpose.
Writing is intimately connected to thought so if I’m depressed, I’m sure you’ll hear it. There are “largely unconscious values and viewpoints,” at play which affect our writing (Gillespie and Lerner 51). It is not a math or a science that you can calculate to the finest degree, but an art that waivers with our emotions. It is our emotional connection to a moment and a feeling that gives good writing its powerful dimension. Just as listening to a song can paint a picture or push you to relive another time in your life, writing can transport you into the writer’s mind or catapult you further into your own. Tanis would say that I’m being too existential, so let me zero in on how this mentality positively affects me as a writer.
I now know that as a tutor I don’t have to be a writing expert. Granted, I can’t be a novice either, but I don’t need to be a best-selling author at Barnes And Noble to be a good tutor. It’s not about being an expert wordsmith that makes a good tutor, it’s about improving yourself and the tutee as writers by learning together. It’s about setting a good tone during a session, “making the tutee feel comfortable, knowing the kinds of issues to address first, being patient and listening, knowing what questions to ask,” (Gillespie and Lerner 26). It’s about in the implementation of all these little techniques that will slowly but surely improve Everyone’s writing quality and quality of life.
I’ve come to learn that since writing style is determined by our experiences and upbringing, it’s hard to give concrete suggestions for anything besides grammar. Fluidity and structure vary from person to person, so while I can consider something fluid, someone else might not. It boils down to the attitude I must bring to a session. If I’m going into it thinking short-term how to make this paper the best paper ever and nothing else, then I will bomb and fail. But if I think of how I can better teach this young writer how to articulate his thoughts better then I will grow as a teacher and he as a student. “The tutor is primarily interested in improving a student as a writer, with less of an emphasis on the writing,” (Gillespie and Lerner 50). Because we all speak differently, I believe the goal of a tutor is to accentuate the personality of a writer without jeopardizing the content of a piece of work.
My metaphor from the abstract to physical comparison was, “death is strawberries.” I decided to use that instead of my hidden original metaphor, “freedom is strawberries,” because after hearing some of the comparisons I thought it would be better to break the tension with comedy. Every metaphor delivered had such emotional depth that I wanted to play devil’s advocate and supply balance to the zoom call. Rather than delivering a long-winded heart wrenching deep truth about how the succulence of fruit provides me with some carnal freedom I never recognized until eating it, I just said that “death is strawberries” because if you eat too many you’ll die. Everyone in class was so emotionally tied to their responses that I understood my purpose was to show everyone that life isn’t that serious. This is the frame of mind that has helped me get through my struggles with meaninglessness this year: to face despair with courage, because reasoning provides no answers. It may have just seemed like a joke, but there was more truth to it than I care to notice. Maybe that’s why I keep writing at all.
Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring. Pearson Longman, 2008.