LawProse Lesson #394: The Big Problem That Lurks in Every Writing Course.

LawProse Lesson #394: The Big Problem That Lurks in Every Writing Course.

A big problem haunts every composition course and every expository writer: how to attack a rhetorical challenge and work out the details. How do you start a writing project, and how do you complete it efficiently?

If a writing course merely focuses on what sentences and paragraphs should end up resembling, students are left to their own devices. They’re likely to feel inadequate—as if they’ve been set up for failure. Almost every student or former student recognizes the feeling.

A good course in writing should give you confidence—not a false assurance that whatever you produce is excellent (it isn’t), but instead the assurance that you understand what you need to be doing to achieve good results. In fact, you probably need your confidence destroyed somewhat to have a better grasp of how you need to change your habits. Only somewhat. But then it needs to be built up with solid knowledge of what you need to be doing daily—daily—to become reliably competent.

False confidence and bravado are enemies to competence in writing, as in every other endeavor. Once they’re swept away, you’ll realize the extent of your existing skills. You might recognize that you already have more proficiency than you’d silently feared. You’ll begin to see that there are recurrent skills involved in finding interesting ideas, getting your facts straight, and pursuing them to a conclusion so that you can persuade readers that right is right and true is true.

The professionals at LawProse respect writers who declare that they’re decent—rather than those who say they’re excellent or magnificent. The latter lack the self-knowledge that a solid course in writing can instill.

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