9 Dummies Can Still Be Writers

Leah Boonstra

Throughout middle and high school, many of us were taught the proper way to write. Or so we thought… Our teachers drilled our brains with learning the proper way to format and cite papers. I even remember my middle school English teacher creating a song to help us remember the proper heading for MLA format. If only I realized back then, that formatting your writing does not make you an excellent writer. So if proper formatting or correct citations do not make you a good writer, then what does? That seems like an impossible question to answer.

There are a variety of writers who are seen as successful in the writing business. So how can one specify what makes a good writer and what does not? Writing professor Dustin Edwards from San Diego State and Enrique Paz from the Fashion Institute of technology, portray “genius writers” as people like William Shakespeare and George Orwell. Would I agree that William Shakespeare and George Orwell are excellent writers? Of course. But, I do not think they define the term genius. I also do not think that famous authors like the examples provided should be the only people to define proper writing. Obviously their work is excellent and very well known, but most of us have read some pretty killer books or poems that were not written by a famous well known author.

As a college student, if someone told me that you have to be a genius to be a successful writer, I would immediately think that to be an impossible task for me. I’m sure I would not be the only college student to think that after reading something like that. I think if I were to ask a handful of college students if they thought they were dumb, they would say yes, I know I would. I’ve done and said a lot of really dumb things in my life, but those things do not necessarily define my academic career, or more specifically my writing. I, as well as some of my old teachers and professors can attest that I have written some really great pieces of writing. So, if I were to associate having to be smart in order to be a successful writer, I would be lying to myself. It’s important that other college students think like that too. Is any human being actually a genius? I don’t believe so. Society can trick us by feeding individuals lies that we’re not good enough, specifically in writing. But how can anyone ever live up to the term “genius?” According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the term genius is described as someone who has great cleverness, skill, or originality. I do not believe that humans can live up to the term genius because every human is imperfect.

So how can we change that? I think it is important for educators to focus on content rather than the organization of the writing piece itself. If a student writes a really sucky paper but has excellent formatting and another student writes an amazing paper but forgets to include the teacher’s name in the heading, who deserves the better grade? Both authors could be seen as dumb, but in reality writing should be based off of content and ideas about what the story is actually describing. In writing, it should not be about whether an individual is dumb or smart, but rather about the story the writer is sharing and how exactly they do that.

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Good Ideas About Writing by Leah Boonstra is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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