Writing Lessons

August 2, 2016

Writing is a process. So often, students who are having trouble writing are so worried about the final product that they miss all of the steps in between.
The Literacy and NCTE blog recently shared a guest post by Rahul Malayappan, a high school senior who was also a finalist in the 2016 Atlantic & College Board Writing Prize Contest. Rahul's post gives so much insight into the writing process, including his initial lack of interest, the importance of peer review, his moments of inspiration, and the value of what he learned along the way. By the time his experience came to an end, Rahul's entire concept of the writing process had changed.
There are many other students out there who can learn from what Rahul shares about his experience:
Sometimes inspiration isn't immediate.
Rahul's entire involvement in this contest began with an assignment from his teacher. None of the aspects of the assignment - analyze a piece of art, criticize it, and delve into art history as it relates to the art piece - appealed to Rahul. But since the essay was mandatory, he thought he "might as well" complete it and submit it to the contest. As you'll see when you read Rahul's post, this approach wouldn't work. It wasn't until his friend, Sarah, gave him some peer feedback that completely changed his point of view.
Speaking of Sarah, it's always great to have a second set of (honest) eyes.
Rahul says Sarah gave a "scathing" evaluation of his initial essay. Due to her honest feedback, Rahul started his paper again from scratch and was ultimately happier with the final version of his essay submission.
Which leads us to our next point: Starting over is OK, and not a sign of failure.
Rahul had difficulty finding inspiration in his original assignment, but because it was a requirement of one of his high school courses, he knew he'd have to complete it and might as well enter it in the contest if he had to do it anyway. This lack of engagement in the assignment led to a working essay that Rahul knew he needed to abandon in order to be successful. When he did, he changed his approach to the writing process, was more engaged in his work, and this was reflected in the final product.
At the end of the day, it's not about the destination, but the journey.
Spoiler alert if you haven't read Rahul's post: he wins a finalist spot in the contest. As a finalist, he had the opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. to view artwork at the National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. He met the other finalists as well as contest organizers. Although he didn't win the contest, Rahul says the entire experience "was marvelous" and "changed [his] view of the writing process." Rahul's post reminds us that student writers can grow and improve and learn from all of the work they complete. 

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