When I was working on my bachelor’s degree, I did an internship at the campus Learning Center. My job was to tutor the students with their writing assignments. Some students seemed to believe that meant that I would write their papers for them. Now, I won’t lie, there was a part of me that wanted to tell them what to write sometimes, but that would have made it my story and not theirs, so of course, I would have had to put my name on it.
Everyone has a story to tell. And one of my favorite quotes goes something like – there are no boring subjects, only boring writers. I don’t know who said it or if I read it or how it got in my mind, but it definitely holds water. So if you think you’re not a good writer and/or that your topic is boring, here are the two tips I can offer that will help you liven it up.
So, how would I – a non-teacher and introvert – tutor these students to write a paper about their own topics using their own voice and make it worthy of an A? Well, because I am not a teacher, I didn’t feel like instructing was the way to go. So, instead I asked them questions. I asked them questions about their topics and what they wanted to tell about the topic, how the topic intersected with their lives. I got all psychological on them and asked them stuff like, “How did that make you feel?” and “Why do you think that is?”
Their answers only brought more questions. They needed to see how everything they were telling me was related.
Asking all of these questions fit perfectly into my introvert scope – I don’t like to waste time with small talk with someone I don’t know. I want to know their stories. I like to know the details that led up to and were results of main events. So this was a chance for me to cut through the small talk and get down to the meat of it with total strangers, and it was fantastic for me, and they got the tutoring they needed to write their stories.
Their answers would dictate the direction of the stories and personalize them because they used their own perspective to relate to something that might seem unrelated to them. Anytime you can make a connection, you become invested in your writing. And most of the time, if the writer is invested, the reader can feel that, and the writing becomes more interesting.
Ask and Answer
We wouldn’t have to go through the whole paper that way (some assignments were reeeeeallllllly long) because once they got the hang of how to ask their own questions, they were set. They already knew the answers. So they would leave and write the papers on their own at home, and suddenly, it wasn’t such a daunting task because they became a part of their own writing. You don’t have to be a writer to write well, you just have to find a way to connect to your writing.
They would bring their papers back when they were finished, and we would go over them mainly for grammatical and structural errors. It was a good gig for me. The students were happy; I was happy. The director asked me to come back and work there after my internship was ended.
But the point is that these students, ranging from freshman to graduate students who thought they couldn’t write, wrote great papers all because they put themselves into it. They didn’t just copy and paste what they found online, changing a few words to keep from plagiarizing. They had their own thoughts to offer, and offer them they did.
Easy as Pie
Mmm . . . did someone say pie? Oh, I guess that was me. Well, before I get too far off track, let me just say, it really is that easy. Ask yourself a few questions about your topic. Write down your answers. Expand on those sentences to bring your story together. Even if it doesn’t sound easy, it’s worth a try. Whether you are writing a report for class, a letter to someone you care about, or even if you’re trying to write a blog post, this is a good way to get started, and the rest will come. If it doesn’t, ask yourself a few more questions. And then, have a piece of pie.