By Emma Livingston, Co-editor
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
– Thomas Mann
I asked Don Bapst, coordinator of the Thunderbird Writing Center, when he first realized that he enjoyed writing. “Actually, for me, writing is one of the most painful, difficult things there is,” he said. “It’s more the result of the writing that is pleasant. The actual action of writing is not something I tend to enjoy – but I feel compelled to do it.”
A writer who doesn’t enjoy writing? In popular culture, we have an image of the inspired writer who pens a novel or a play or a book of poetry in one frenzied burst of creativity. In real life, writing is hard work and Don Bapst is a testament to that.
“Writing is a combination of three things,” Don told me. “Communication, storytelling, and rewriting. Communication means you are conscious of your audience. Storytelling comes from your confidence as an authority on your topic. Rewriting is the hard labor of working with sentences, paragraphs, semicolons: the tools of your trade, regardless of what you’re writing.”
Rewriting is where you’ll spend most of your time as a writer. Don has published two novels, translated a novel from French to English, and written several plays and screenplays. The main advice he can give students looking to improve the quality of their writing is: “Incorporate time for multiple drafts and seek out feedback at different stages in the writing process. Know that your writing isn’t going to come out perfectly in the first draft.
“Whether you’re brainstorming or you have a final draft and need last minute feedback, it’s always good to have another person look at your writing. When I write, I always get my work in front of as many people as I can.” This applies not only to creative work, but also to business writing. “I worked as the official web writer for United Airlines just before they merged with Continental.” Don was in charge of writing web content and sending out emails to all United customers regarding fare promotions and new safety regulations for airlines.
“I’ve never been read by so many people as when I was working for United Airlines. I had a readership of millions of people!” With this type of writing, it’s even more important to communicate a clear message, quickly tell a compelling story, and rewrite to ensure the communication is as clear as it can be. As MBA students, all the theory we learn about how to maximize profit for the firm are useless if we are not able to effectively communicate our ideas in both spoken and written forms.
This is where the Thunderbird Writing Center comes into play. As Don points out, “Whether you’re an international student speaking English as a second or third language, or whether you’re a native English speaker, the Writing Center provides an opportunity to have one-on-one feedback on your paper, cover letter, or whatever type of writing you have–at any stage in the process. At the Writing Center, you have a person who is dedicated to looking at your writing: a peer, who is taking the classes you are taking or is taking similar classes. Our writing tutors can let you know how effective you are at communicating your ideas and give you strategies for clarifying and organizing your ideas on paper.”
Writing is hard. Even for people who are good at it. Achieving a polished, persuasive piece of writing requires multiple drafts and feedback from many different sources. Use all the resources at your disposal, whether you’re a student or faculty, and come visit Thunderbird’s team of writing consultants at the Writing Center. Make the hard work of writing just a little bit easier.
To book a free appointment with a Graduate Writing Consultant visit https://tutoring.asu.edu/graduate and search for the “click here” link. You must be logged in with your ASUrite ID and password. The Thunderbird Writing Center is located behind the Bloomberg Terminal in the IBIC.