Writing Center

What a Rat Has Taught Me About Writing

Hannah McFeeters | 2023-2024 Writing Center Graduate Assistant

As a lacrosse coach, an educator, and a Writing Center tutor, I have listened to people declare a multitude of "nots" and "cannots."

 Regardless of the differences in setting, they all are communicating the same sort of idea:

I have decided I am not a good writer/good player/good learner, so therefore, I am not going to try to be such a thing.

My response:

            Who told you that?
I was born and raised on Disney/Pixar films. Recently, re-watching these movies has become one of my favorite things to do after a long day as a graduate student. Last week, I absentmindedly flipped through a streaming service (I shall not name for copyright purposes), selected something, and put my head down into my laptop to conclude the unfinished business of the day.

I looked up when I heard a fictional Chef Gusteau imparting wisdom to a rodent protagonist:

You must try new things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from.

They were words I had heard before, but had since forgotten. Surely, the students I work with have forgotten them, too.


Many modern learning environments have turned into atmospheres that gratify systems:certain inputs should equal certain outputs. I believe students have absorbed this environment; thus, when the first attempt at writing (the input) does not work, too often the output is the decision “I am not a good writer.” Students do not stop and consider the faultiness in the rigid system of success on one end of the spectrum and failure on the other. They have bought into this mechanical logic because it is easier to doubt yourself and proclaim you are not something than to be deemed a failure by something or someone else.

The only way to combat such fear and self-doubt is to do that which we believe we cannot do; to try new things that may not work. And then, we must try again.



and Again.

As someone privileged with working with young minds, I have learned that I am tasked with the duty of not only building an environment in which young people feel safe to try, but I must also convince them of the faultiness of the mechanical-system of success and failure some have absorbed. Multiple attempts do not indicate a lack of success, in fact, it indicates that you have won a battle with self- doubt. You have chosen to not define your limits based on what you have told yourself before.


When young writers give themselves the grace to try, the output is so much more than a good paper: it is a reckoning with self-doubt in which self-confidence comes out on top. 

In the movie Ratatouille, a rat learns to cook from a book titled: Anyone Can Cook

I am going to petition for a poster in the Writing Center with the words: Anyone Can Write


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