I’ve always been a good writer–rather, that’s what my parents and teachers have always told me. Yet my first B+ was scrawled across a short story I wrote in the 4th grade. The Once and Future King brought me my first C during the fall of 8th grade. The first few essays I turned in to my AP English Language and Composition teacher came back bleeding ink, my flowery language struck through with the furious swipes of a felt-tip pen.
The first essay I wrote in college for a literature class was so bad that not only did I get a C on it, but when I turned in a shockingly good one two months later, my professor asked to see me during office hours because she thought I had cheated, such was the disparity in my work! How ironic that the professor who accused me of cheating was the same professor who advised my (well-received) honors thesis three years later.
Despite completing some truly heinous work in my tenure as a student, I won a prize the day before my college graduation, the Valerie Kay Hardy essay award. The semester prior, I had been asked to present another piece at the student research symposium. They were, admittedly, solid works of academia, but their reception leads to me ask: What happened?
As an English major and a student in a liberal arts curriculum, you read a lot and you write a lot, but you aren’t necessarily taught how to write. You just do it, and either you do it well or you don’t. While I’ve always had the mechanics and the voice down pat, the argumentation and clarity have, at times, been a struggle. I attribute my growth as a writer to three things: editing, reading and journalism.
Stay tuned, ladies and gents, for the continuation of “How Good Writing Happens.” Up next: “Editing the Editor: Every Writer Needs a Critic.”