Hai! My name’s David, and I’ve been a Writing Center consultant for three months. This is my first consultant diary, so I thought I would talk about what I find most rewarding about this wonderful job.
When I transferred to Michigan State last fall, I came to The Writing Center mainly looking for a steady university job that put my writing skills to use. Coming from spending a year at my last college’s newspaper publication as a section editor and writer, I imagined working in a writing center to be very similar to my work at the (shameless plug) White Pine Press.
Boy was I wrong.
The day I visited Bessey Hall to find out how to join up, a workshop was being conducted for what I assume to be a group of freshmen teaching them what the writing center was. As I waited to meet with our receptionist, Cathy, I passively listened to the workshop taking place. ‘Is this all I’m going to be doing here?’ I thought, suddenly immensely grateful for taking a Public Speaking class in the spring. But when I was told I would be required to enroll in a 3 credit class as part of my training to become a writing consultant, my expectations went from simple presentations explaining writing styles and grammar rules to something much, much bigger.
In WRA 395, we learned the basic techniques and practices for one-on-one consulting. We discussed the common challenges in our work, the various techniques for responding to extreme cases (like clients who are upset, either angry or sad), and A LOT of fascinating theory regarding race, gender and sexuality in relation to writing and tutoring. But nothing prepared me for what I consider the most important facet of my job at The Writing Center at MSU.
The best, most rewarding thing about working at the writing center is its role as a multi-faceted exchange of ideas and constant interpersonal learning. This job allows me to be so much more than just a writing coach; it’s a constant opportunity to be immersed in countless ideas and concepts presented by each client. As consultants, we’re taught that the subject content of any writing comes secondary to things like structure, flow or (especially) grammar. Despite this, one of the hardest things about this job is keeping myself mentally detached from the content of the writing I’m supposed to be consulting. I just can’t help but let my curiosity take over!
To have a skill or talent and to find fulfilment in the pursuit of improving yourself is, to a certain extent, a selfish pursuit. To use your talent to both help others improve themselves, to allow yourself the privilege of expanding your own perceptions through your clients’ ideas and concepts, however, is an amazing relationship that I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully appreciate. For this reason, I like to think of myself and the writing center consultant job not as being a writing coach, but as an idea coach. I feel more satisfaction in helping people bring their ideas and concepts to fruition on paper than almost anything else I’ve done in life. The fact that I get paid to be immersed in a mutual communication of ideas through a unique perspective is simply amazing.
The biggest difference between my fall and my spring semesters has been my employment at The Writing Center (and not just because of the much needed increase in disposable income). Sometimes I feel like the only thing that pushed me through the brutally cold walks (literally) across campus was my excitement for making it to work every day. Every day brought new clients and new ideas. Every day brought a new lesson in communication. And every day, I realized again and again why I honestly wouldn’t trade this job for anything else on campus.