Writing as Hospitality

consider-before-buying-home-hp-origOne of the most inspiring consultations I have ever had was with a senior science major who wanted to talk about a graduate school essay. I promised I would help her as best as I could, but as a sophomore majoring in two liberal arts fields, I was not that familiar with specific standards for post-graduate STEM applications. As she began to read, I feared that I would not know the right questions to ask her.

It turned out that I didn’t need to know any technical aspects of her field; what she wrote about was not the practice of her science, but the moment she fell in love with it. As she took me through that moment and wove it through her undergraduate experiences, I found myself grinning. I could feel the authenticity in her voice, both the one I was hearing and the one I was seeing on the page. I was overjoyed that she shared her passion for science with me during that hour, and it made our conversation mutually constructive and exciting. She had invited me into her thoughts, and I felt honored to have received the invitation.

One of the hardest, yet most rewarding parts of writing is our desire to portray ourselves truthfully on the page. To pick the perfect arguments, phrases, and words that will make us say, “Yes, that’s me. That’s what I need to say.” In that sense, when we have gone through that process to the best of our abilities and have someone else read our work, we are sharing a piece of ourselves with them. We are inviting them into the world of joys, sorrows, loves, conundrums, and other thoughts and emotions with which we contend everyday.

My science major consultee awed me not only with her words, but also with the trust she placed in me. Reading others’ work, and sharing our own, deepens the empathy and trust inherent in our interpersonal connections. This thought has crossed my mind many times throughout my time in the WRC; in the past semester alone, I’ve read about marine science and international social justice, Socrates and the French Revolution, accounting and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and many topics in between. The diverse conversations and worlds that my fellow students have shared with me are proof of the beauty and bravery of the writing process. Collaborating on a piece opens up new forms of truth and opens our minds to receive them.

When we share and receive writing, we may not know what worlds to expect. Yet we can always honor the invitations and appreciate their design.

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