University Writing Center Blog

Posted on March 10th, 2020 in Language, Pedagogy, Thematics by University Writing Center

Written by: Finn M.

For this drizzly Tuesday afternoon, our consultant Finn has written a piece about the validity of all types of writing, and how having a standard definition of “good writing” can impede creativity and cause insecurities in writers.

“Let me make something clear: academically-good writing has nothing do with actual, meaningful, artistic, cathartic writing.” is the opening line of my piece: “The Academic Façade of Good Writing.” This opening reveals a lot about how I feel regarding academia’s impact on how we view writing. Many of these ideas stem from my own revelations during my time in academia and the moments of reflection I’ve had within my own experiences.

During my college career I have found that many of my insecurities in writing come from the rhetoric that the only writing that holds weight is that which follows standard English, and by extension, academic standards. Because of this ideology, I shied away from writing for pleasure. For many years I was under the belief that my own writing wouldn’t be satisfactory if it was not stripped and fit into the rubric I had been given. The fear of failure, even in private, drained my motivation to write for fun. This caused me to lose many of my ideas as I pushed myself into the academic writer role I felt I needed to fill to be respected.

Now, from being a writing center consultant and having met many types of writers, I can see how this rhetoric is not unique to my experience. It’s widespread, often shutting down ideas before they can bloom because many fear harsh critiques from those with prowess. In fact, I believe the reason many have come to dread writing is because they have been forced to only focus on the finished product and not the process. Even for myself, I cannot count how many ideas I have lost simply because I felt I could never produce work that was good enough.

This is heartbreaking because writing can be such an expressive way of communication and self-exploration. How often have novels, poems, short stories, and scripts died because the writer felt they could never produce work that was good enough? When did we become so fixated on what others deemed good writing that we forgot to enjoy any writing? Writing is something that has existed for centuries; storytelling connects cultures. It allows those long dead to still speak to us. I wrote:

“It was around 3500-3000 BCE when Sumerians invented Cuneiform, which is considered one of the earliest forms of writing. In their writing they recorded the events around them. Kings, great battles, floods, the will of the gods, and the search for immortality. Surely, this writing was not polished, grammatically perfected, or created for the purpose of flaunting. Instead, it was there to be. To simply collect the stories of people and cities that would cease to exist long before the modern day.”

I hope that in the coming years we can move back to finding the joy in all writing. Meaningful writing does not have to be 12-point, double spaced, Times New Roman. Yes, writing can do good when it is polished, published and archived; but so can writing that is written on scraps. The number of buzzwords, semi-colons, or quality of grammar does not determine a writing’s worth. It never has, and I think it’s time we start remembering that.