Under Construction in the Writing Center

Image by  Gerd Altmann  from  Pixabay

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

The Praxis offices are located in the beautiful University Writing Center space in the Perry-Casteñada Library the University of Texas-Austin. There’s no question we are fortunate to be in this space. This is an office that I, personally, am grateful for and look forward to coming to almost every day. 

That almost is a very qualified, temporary, and specific almost. Summer in Austin (and summer in most universities and university towns) means one certain thing: construction. This summer, as our library builds a new, more expansive and accessible welcome center, the noise level in the UWC and over/behind my desk has been high. Our staff has been working through this development by making small modifications to our normal routines and service. When you come to the front desk or swing by an office, you’ll find writing center professionals in noise-canceling headphones. Some consultations have moved from their normal tables to labs where the noise is reduced. Our editorial staff has been doing a lot of the detailed close-reading that a journal requires outside of our normal physical offices. I have personally moved my work station more than once. And while all of this is temporary—a relatively minor interruption in an otherwise very fortunate institutional situation—in the moment, in a work day and a season, the sound and the interruption feels anything but minor. It would be a lie to say it has not affected work or productivity. 

In more than one way, this summer’s workspace is a concrete reminder for us that the interruptions, interventions, processes, and revisions that we offer to consultees can be noisy, loud, and distracting, especially when consultees come to us looking for a smoother path to a better paper. Contemporary business-speak and our own pedagogical traditions can sometimes make words like “disruption” sound wholly positive and pleasant. It’s easy to forget—even when we experience this as writers, ourselves—that the process of disruption is intensely, even physically, the opposite. 

Change involves discomfort. My yoga teacher is fond of saying that, once comfort is achieved, all our energy goes to maintaining it. There’s nothing left to give to the changing process unless we are willing to let the maintenance of our own comfort go.  That’s what we’re asking our consultees to do: to uncomfortable work for the sake of change. We’re asking them to decide whether it’s worth doing, and we’re trying to help them cope with the discomfort in the process. 

The same is true in our Praxis office. We’re nearing the end of Summer, which means our summer issue will be out soon, but it also means we’re nearing the start of Fall. We’re about to welcome some new team members--a new Managing Co-Editor, a new Digital Content Manager, and a new crop of copy-editors to join our editorial team. We just designed a new ad today, and we’ll be making some changes to our website in the coming weeks. We’re excited about all of this, but it does entail work, discomfort, doing things we thought we’d already settled again. Letting go of some maintenance to make room for something new. 

Let’s keep doing the work.