“Writing Is Hard,” writes Kathryn Woodside

A few weeks ago I had an assignment to write about reading in my discipline. It was just a few pages, no big deal. Just crank it out, right? Wrong. I was ‘multitasking’, talking with a friend and explaining to them the assignment and how the project was daunting for me.  Maybe thirty minutes into our sporadic conversation he asked how the paper was coming along. “…and you’re six sentences in?” I laughed to myself. Try two and a half.   A few hours later the paper made it to the printer on the shorter end of the page requirement.

Writing is hard, so why do I still do it? Why put myself through painstaking effort, unpleasantness, and sometimes just plain boredom? It’s something more than being able to see the words on a page. For me, it’s because this letter will let someone know I’m thinking about and care for them. It’s because writing this paper will get me closer to the grade I want. It’s because this email will let my residents know what’s going on for the week.  It’s because this blog post might challenge and resonate with my fellow honors students.

Writing is hard, and yet, searching for those words, waiting for my heart to speak is a practice that strengthens and challenges me in new ways.  The work of those long hours is a better expression of my thoughts than anything I could come up with on the spot. The writing process, however explicitly or implicitly it happens, requires me to plan what I’m going to say, write, and trim it to concision, and my end product has meaning that will serve some greater purpose.

For many of you, though, writing is not hard. I would venture to say most of my academic peers can pump out a page in less than two hours. I’ve read some of those pages too; they’re thoughtful and incredibly well-written.  Writing is clearly not hard for everyone, but in each discipline, for each student, there is something. Maybe you’re not crazy about math, presentations, or lab, but you do it. There’s something more important in the outcome than that temporary, growth-producing struggle.

So I leave you with the words of John Quincy Adams, “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”


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