Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Good Writing Can't Be Taught
Audience -- Dr. Malesh


Heart
Think of your special talents. Perhaps you can paint, sing, or play an instrument very well. Did you find that you were exceptional in those areas soon after you started them? The first time Tiger Woods swung a golf club at the age of 18 months, his father said that it looked like a mini replica of a professional golfer. Now think of those areas that you struggle with. For example, I am bad at math. No matter how hard I worked, I wasn't able to become "good" at it. Do you think that someone can be taught how to drive a race car? Writing is the same way -- you either have the ability or you don't. Think of your own special area of expertise. Do you believe someon who is not gifted in that area could be taught to be as good as you are (providing that you are applying yourself diligently)?
Logic
How many people have you seen take piano lessons for years, yet never get any better at playing? I know I have seen people take golf lessons for over ten years, yet they haven't improved at all. Writing is not as extreme as golf, but natural golfers and natural writers can not be made -- they just "are." Everyone in America today is required to learn how to read, spell, and write. Every kid is given more or less the same education, and yet we see great writers emerge from classes in which everyone else was an average writer. Many great writers had little formal schooling, yet wrote great books. If one good writing could be taught, wouldn't there be many good writers since there are plenty of opportunities to learn the nuances of writing?
Character
I am an English major, and I have written and read many pieces of writing. I am also a writing tutor who has seen all kinds of writing. In my own personal experience, people can improve their writing. If they diligently try to learn how to write, the quality of their writing will improve. However, they are still not good writers. They are merely better than they were before. There is a certain flair for writing that can not be taught. I can help someone with their thought processes and writing methods, but I can't teach them how to write pieces that "glow." Two ice skaters may do the same routine perfectly, but there is that "something" in one of the skaters performance that makes it good, while the other is merely average. As a writing tutor, I see students who have that "something" and I see those who don't. I can help those gifted students improve enough to be "great", but I would need to be God to teach an average writer to be great.
Values
This one will be tough, Dr. Malesh, because since you are the Writing Center director, you most likely believe that people can be taught to be good writers. However, think about your favorite authors. Do you believe that someone taught them how to capture your entertainment? Since I am sure you have tutored many people, I would like you to think about how many of them were good writers. Have you ever turned someone into a truly good writer when they weren't before? Sure, some kids have their rough edges, and you can help them smooth them out.

Conclusion
Truly good writers are rare. While there are many degrees of excellence, I am defining a good writer in this piece as one who is better than 85 percent of other people who write. Talent is required for writing, just as it is basketball. You are either born with it or you are born without it. Michael Jordan was coached, but he had the basic tools inside of him. I am a decent writer, but even if Shakespeare came back from the dead to personally tutor me, I would never be a great writer. Good writing comes from within one's self.

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