What’s in your pantry? Ingredients for success in writing

The entrance to the Woodsworth College Academic Writing Centre
The entrance to the Woodsworth College Academic Writing Centre
You enter your kitchen. You know you have to eat, but you are loathing the fact that you have to cook. You hear a rustling in the pantry. You think it might be a mouse. You are afraid of mice. You grab a broom just to be safe, so you have some protection against the little vermin. You boldly swing the door open and scream like a three year old. To your shock and awe, it isn’t a mouse that emerges. It is none other than celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. He asks in his appealing accent “So, what are we cookin’ tonight love?” Gordon Ramsay is offering to help you cook a wonderful feast. Instead of the plain pasta you were going to make, you could be having pasta primavera with market fresh veggies and extra virgin olive oil, cold pressed that morning. You consider the offer for a moment and instead of replying “Why yes Gordon Ramsay, I would love to have your help in preparing an extraordinary meal”, you casually infer that you’ve “got it under control”. Gordon Ramsay says, “Fine then, I’ve got to be in LA in an hour anyways”. You proceed, unshaken by your encounter, to cook some very average pasta. It is edible but, it’s not going to win any awards. Does this sound familiar? No. Alright, let’s exchange a few names. What if instead of Gordon Ramsay, it was a PHD in some field of arts and humanities, which was offering their services to you? You may be wondering what a Doctor of Philosophy is doing in your pantry? That’s understandable. Let’s make the pantry an office in your college. So, now the pasta preparation isn’t really fitting into the scenario. Let’s change the pasta into a research paper. Are you starting to see where I’m going here? A PHD is offering to help you plan, write and edit your paper, FOR FREE, and you are casually saying, “I’ve got it under control”. Let me reiterate...help is being offered by someone who knows far more about academic writing than you, even if you are a great writer, and you are refusing said help. My question is this. Why are students not flocking to writing centres to get help? Even if you think you have a great paper, the truth is we are all in the process of acquiring knowledge. There is no perfect essay at this point or possibly at any point. The writing centres are there to help us make our papers as perfect as they can be. In some ways we are all at a disadvantage. We are writing for professors who by and large write for a living. Imagine presenting your aforementioned average pasta to Gordon Ramsay for his critique. Would you even have the nerve to do it? I would not. I would be terrified of his honest opinion. I think this is the same emotion most first year undergrads experience when handing in their very first university level paper. So why do students hand in papers that are not up to snuff? Perhaps, they are not aware of the writing aid that is available on campus. Or maybe they don’t have the time. I have a very tight schedule and I have found that if I schedule my writing centre appointments into my calendar as if they were a class, then I can make the time. I book well in advance, according to the due dates of my papers and I always schedule a minimum of two appointments per paper. Working my schedule in this way ensures that I have the time set aside well in advance. There are very few students who are naturally gifted with the ability to write with impeccable grammar, perfect spelling, and foolproof arguments (notice the Oxford comma, knowledge gained courtesy of the Woodsworth College Academic Writing Centre pictured in the above photo!). Apart from the copious amount of help I have received from the writing centres, I have also gained a lot of really useful writing knowledge. For example, the proper usage of that and which...previously an enigma to me. There is also the Oxford comma, which I have already displayed in good form. Little things like these really improve the quality of your writing. Let me clarify one thing...the writing centres are not in the proofreading business. But they will help you to understand how and why you are erring in your grammar. They will also help you plan and implement a well structured essay. Here’s a quick self assessment. If you fall into any of these categories you might need a writing centre.
    If you are wondering if your in class essay next week needs a thesis...you might need the writing centre. If you don’t know what a pattern of argument is...you might need the writing centre. If your 1500 word essay consists of three paragraphs...you might need the writing centre.
It’s funny but it’s true. If you have never visited your college’s writing centre, make an appointment and go experience what it is to have a professional assist you in your writing.   Find your college writing centre here: http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/writing-centres/centres  -Lori

2 comments on “What’s in your pantry? Ingredients for success in writing

  1. Lori! Thanks for the post. I have never been to the writing centre…no matter how motivated I am to do well, I always seem to be scrambling around the night before, just trying to get my assignment done!

    I think that maybe I could use the writing centre to help me avoid all-nighters…maybe if I schedule appointments in advance, I’ll have motivation to get drafts done by then????

  2. Shannon! thanks for the comment! I think booking well in advance will absolutely help to eliminate the all-nighters. Let me know what you think of it, once you have went to your writing centre.

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