The Anatomy of a Writing Consultation
Wolfgang Güllich, an accomplished German rock climber, observed of his sport, “In climbing you are always faced with new problems in which you must perform using intuitive movements, and then later analyze them to figure out why they work, and then learn from them.” It is equally true that “In [writing] you are always faced with new problems in which you must perform using intuitive movements, and then later analyze them to figure out why they work, and then learn from them.” Like climbers, writers collaborate to solve problems: we consult colleagues and teachers for guidance, we help one another negotiate complex issues, and we value perspectives that complicate our convictions.
Each writing consultation is as unique as the reader and writer engaged in dialogue about the project in question. It might be best, then, to think of the Writing Center as a laboratory or a studio in which experimentation, flexibility, and play are the dominant modes of development. Our work, therefore, is student-centered. We aim at helping you achieve your goals by strengthening and clarifying your own thinking, which in turn helps you to strengthen and clarify your writing and speaking. Sometimes this means asking a series of questions that you must answer for yourself; other times this means writing, scratching out, rewriting, and revising with you as a way of modeling a writing process that requires effort, thought, time, and persistence.
Talking about writing with a peer-consultant is beneficial to everyone, whether you visit us out of a sense of real and tangible need (“My professor said I need to write stronger transitions”; “English isn’t my first language, and I need help with grammar”; “I need an ‘A’ on this paper.”), or a more general desire to improve as a writer. Whatever the case may be, the peer-consultants in Vassar’s Writing Center demonstrate a sincere enthusiasm for assisting writers with diverse backgrounds, interests, and writing proficiencies by approaching student writing as works in progress, and by thinking of writing first as a method for the discovery and development of ideas. As such, we’ll work with you to set an agenda for the consultation and collaborate to identify areas you would most like to address––perhaps complicating a thesis statement or transitioning between two distinct yet interrelated ideas, or even establishing the project’s overarching significance and implication.