Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
A few months after my first class at The Arts Center in Troy, I decide to take another—one called Writing in Doubt. The course's theme: What stops one from writing?
During this class I met a young lady who also critiqued my work, but in an entirely new manner.
Zan took my paper and quietly made all the necessary changes to my writing, correcting punctuation, grammar, and offering options for possible word choices.
When asked publicly to comment on my work, she found strengths and praised them.
After class, Zan came up to me and said: “If you ever need some help with writing, let me know.”
Her words were like the gentle rain needed to cultivate a tender, special flower. Tenderness and kindness, along with an expertise in writing, are qualities that my prior writing teachers lacked.
Firstly and importantly for me, Zan was affordable. She wasn’t charging $200 an hour. I needed a teacher, a coach, and a supporter. Zan became all of those things. What I notice most about Zan’s assistance, right from the first time we met, was her continual kindness—something that has been lacking in all my prior writing experiences.
Lately, I've been re-reading the academic literature on teaching writing. Reggie Routman and Georgia Heard are experts in the field. In her book, Routman encourages teachers to find the value in what her struggling students are trying to say and help them write from there. This sort of engagement gives them the confidence to want to keep writing.
If we want those who struggle to write, we have to remember that they are just like exotic plants, which need additional care, attention, and knowledge to thrive.