It was my first writing center appointment. I sat next to my tutor, reading sentences aloud.

“My process is fixated on perfection. While this perfection may be transient, I refuse to type a sentence that, in some way at the time, might be lacking.” 

My tutor looked at me with puzzled eyes. “But what do you REALLY mean to say?” 

I was frustrated. I thought back to those hours in the library, laboring over that sentence and those word choices. I knew exactly what I meant. I knew that transient perfection so well I could practically touch it. But when the tutor asked me that basic question, I grew defensive. I tried as hard as I could to explain what I meant and how I felt.  In essence, I felt like this:

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As I explained my reasoning, I began to understand my writing better. I explained how I chose each word and why. I assumed responsibility for my text, engaging in each decision I made. Rather than taking control himself, my tutor passed the baton to me, pushing me to be the pilot of my own text.

In retrospect, I appreciate that single question at that single moment. It reminded me of the importance of setting “a tone that unmistakably shows that the paper belongs to the student” (Brooks, 130). Oftentimes I feel that students make appointments with tutors, hoping to hand off their paper to a more informed, “authoritative” figure. This thought process, however, seems backwards. The role of the tutor should be to reinforce the authority of the writer because at the end of the day, who knows the writing better than the writer herself?

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