The Writing Illness

Last year, I interviewed a Bentley junior and asked her what it was about a business school that made her so interested in attending one. She, of course, mentioned the great after-graduation career opportunities, but—more importantly—she also stated: “Plus, I hate writing. I wanted to go to a school that had me do as little of that as possible.”

A lot of business students express similar opinions. They seem to see writing as an illness to avoid, a prospect as frightening as flu season. Hilariously enough, though, writing is like the common cold—everyone gets it, everyone suffers through it. But if you’re properly prepared to deal with it and understand how to treat it, then with tissues and Purell in hand, (sorry, I mean pen and paper in hand), you can solve any issue and alleviate those sniffles fast or even prevent them from attacking in the first place.

For example, last semester my literature professor practiced a preventive philosophy. She was all about preparation and fortification—her tactics included corrective action during the outlining stage and adding specificity in thesis statements to avoid ambiguity later on. Her pre-essay planning classes were like downing five glasses of Emergen-C: bitter in taste but comforting in their security. I always walked away from those classes feeling more confident about my paper, though I had hardly written a word of it at that point. My professor’s strategies worked—there were of course issues with the first draft, but the number of logical and structural issues was limited. The preparative measures really helped me focus on what it is I truly wanted to say, in which order I wanted to say it, and how exactly I wanted to say it, which allowed me to dodge the organizational issues that can plague other writers who jump in without a second thought.

On the other hand, my expository writing professor was like a doctor prescribing medication after a particularly nasty cold. She emphasized re-writing, revision, re-wording, and re-reading. Prevention measures were not important—it was all about treatment. All the drafts I wrote for her class were as sick as college students during flu season, hacking up mistakes in logic and organization and sneezing out mechanical errors. But with time and a few shots with the red pen, my papers came back to life, breathing in strength of topic and beauty of language.

With flu season arriving and midterm season right on its tail, I believe that both strong treatment and strong preparation are key to survival. Perhaps with these thoughts in mind, students won’t feel so adverse to the process of writing—they may, in fact, come to enjoy it! (Still can’t imagine ever enjoying a cold, though).

So here’s to survival this illness season. May your bodies stay healthy and your papers stay strong!

-Maria Clarice Chua

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About BentleyWritingCenter

This is the official blog of the Bentley University Writing Center staff.
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