Monday, September 30, 2013

Second That Emotion

Writing and emotion just seem to go together. Whether its the author getting misty-eyed about a topic, or an English 1010 student getting upset because she has to write "another stupid essay" or, perhaps, the reader feeling a tug on the heartstrings, much of the writing we see in the Writing Center has some sort of emotional component.

When students become emotional about their writing, I let them vent. When a student feels negatively about writing in general, sometimes all the student needs is someone to listen to them complain, wail, moan and curse the luck that has left them in a university class that requires writing (gasp). Other students may feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or scared that they can't live up to the writing task. In these instances, lots of support, hand-holding, and acknowledgment of the student's fears is helpful.

When a student becomes emotional about the topic of her paper, and not about the process of writing itself, I honor the student's emotion. I may not agree with the emotion, and I try not to get emotionally involved, but as a tutor I can always say, "I see how that could make you feel ________." Writing can be incredibly cathartic. Writing can also be brave. A student may be taking a stand against something she has held all her life to be true, and is afraid of this turn-about. Or, a student may write about a traumatic life experience, or event that has deeply impacted her life. Honoring and respecting emotion is an important part of earning the student's trust.

Likewise, I will tell a student if their topic reaches me on an emotional level. If the subject evokes an emotional response, I will let the student know. Writing is communication, and it is important to let the student know when that communication has elicited a strong response.


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