So What? Leaving Fingerprints in Our Writing

imprint-868979_1280As we finished reading through her paper together in the Writing Center, I looked up and asked the student, so what?
The student looked at me very dejected, and I quickly recovered.
“No, no! I didn’t mean that in a bad way. Let me explain…”


Many of my writing mentors have told me, “When you think you are done with your writing, you’re ready to edit.” I would say, when you’ve completed your argument and you are nearing the end of your essay, you need to start asking yourself so what? Tell me why the time I spent reading this was worth it. More importantly, tell me why you spent time crafting this piece.

Take pride in your writing! Be bold, be fearless; grab a sheet of paper and pen to record your honest thoughts. Stop allowing the insecurity and fear of your work’s worth get in the way of what begs to be written. The first step requires a writer to jot down initial reflections and observations. As the piece progresses, the argument can be crafted in a way to present your personal voice effectively.

Each of us can improve our writing. It matters not if we are a child in grade school or rhetorician with a PhD; writing requires careful attention and effort. There is not a writer among us producing polished work without several stages of drafts. Yet, we are quick to categorize a “good” writer, and others as “poor” writers. Instead, we should recognize writers as human beings working to find their voices. Every piece we create, whether an academic essay or a personal poem, is unique because of the viewpoints we bring to the convention, producing fingerprints of individual style. Every time we write, we are provided with the opportunity to grow, and our pieces become a timeline of our progress. As we progress, we continually mold our own styles and become more attuned to our voices in writing.

One of the simplest ways of placing your personal fingerprint on your writing is simply asking the question, so what? Be critical. Why should your reader care? Why do you care? The integrity of your writing can be measured by the filter you create between your mind and the paper. In other words, as the writer, you have an opportunity to bring something unique in the way that you perceive an event or idea. Conclude, but don’t end there. Write about your passions. Find an aspect among both academic writing and creative writing which you find important. Don’t like the topic your professors gave you to write about? Writing the “so what” conclusion is the perfect opportunity to make the piece your own. I love finding something in my topic that provides a touch of humanity—no matter the content. These moments help writers find a unique voice through the vehicle of written word.

Next time you are writing—any piece—ask yourself, So what? Try to find one redeeming quality and go for it. Don’t be afraid of leaving fingerprints.

Rachel-SchratzSP16Rachel Schratz is a first year writing consultant at JCU’s Writing Center. Rachel is majoring in professional writing, with a minor in Catholic studies.



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