How to Overcome Writer’s Insecurity

Tejas Vadali  I didn’t know how to write a complete sentence until midway through fifth grade. However absurd or laughable that may sound, it is absolutely true. Insecurity consumed my personality and my writing, and I found it very difficult to express myself beyond what rubrics mandated. I interviewed a handful of English teachers about how they identify and deal with writer insecurity in their students. Each teacher was given the following prompt: can English teachers discern insecure writers? Writers that aren’t writing for themselves, but for the teacher/rubric? Writers that aren’t being themselves? What are the markers? First, Mr. Joyce responded with a well-thought-out answer: “When students do write badly, it’s usually because they’re trying to sound like the way students write in movies,” he said, “with overblown language that usually distracts from content. There’s way too much style and not enough content; they’ll try to compensate for their lack of content with style. In college, I would try to write long, elaborate sentences in lab reports in the hopes that they would not read what I had written, and as a consequence, I wound up doing really poorly. One of my teachers told me that most good writing will be closer to good conversation than the multisyllabic voice of a professor as imagined by Hollywood. I try to correct it by taking a piece of writing that a student has given me, highlighting the clearest statements, and trying to remove or cross out overstatements of distracting info that does not contribute to their point.” I also sat down with Ms. Barker to hear her perspective. She explained, “a lot of students in high school don’t actually know who they are as writers. My job as a teacher in high school is to help students find and develop their writing voices. I think there are a lot of students in high school who are too concerned with the grade at the end of writing to ‘write for themselves.’ In order to help students become more secure and authentic in their writing, I like to offer ‘lower stakes’ assignments and imitation exercises so they can play around with their writing voice and even have fun with it, because that’s when students start to ‘write for themselves.” In addition, I interviewed English Department Chair Ms. Diorio, who said, “sometimes I can tell [if a student is insecure about their writing] because the student isn’t interested in an essay topic.” She added that, “to help [with writer insecurity], I like to assign personal essays because they allow students to write about what they want to, and that really boosts their confidence. Everybody’s confidence can be supported and developed, but it takes a different amount of time and maturity for every student, so I try to help accordingly.” When asking my own English teacher Mr. Gupta about how he recognizes insecure writers, he said, “Participation and homework, as well as writing and reading assignments and demeanor, are giveaways. [When I notice a student is insecure] I try to meet with them. Some kids are excited, some are tepid. We have good and bad days, and part of being a student is managing all of that. Teachers are humans and we try to understand you like that. If students aren’t putting forth their best selves, we can tell, not because we have secret powers, but because we’re people too.” Every student has felt unsure about their writing at some point or another, and it is clear that Latin’s English department aims to intercept such problems early on. Writer insecurity is something many students deal with at Latin, but the English department is here to help. Or you can improve your own writer insecurity by volunteering more in class and engaging in discussions with peers. Who knows — you might even end up writing for the Forum. Just make sure you know how to phrase a complete sentence first!]]>