As a writing consultant, I strive to empower those who come to the Writing Center. Rather than “fixing” their writing for them, I support the client as they create, research, and edit.
During the past three years that I have served as a Writing Center consultant, I have learned a great deal about what it means to empower clients. Near the beginning of my time at the Writing Center, I felt the need to control the appointment by fixing all of the errors myself without the client’s input. I thought I was doing the client a favor by diving in to edit while giving them a break from working on their paper.
However, the work I thought I was doing on behalf of the client turned out to work against the client. I was not empowering them—in fact, through my actions, I was doing the opposite. By jumping in to “fix” the paper, I unintentionally implied that I was better equipped than the author to revise the writing. I soon realized that my role as a Writing Center consultant was to empower clients in their own writing processes. Since then, I have continued to learn more about what it means to empower others through writing, and I have seen this play out beyond the Writing Center.
Little did I know how quickly the work that I did at the Writing Center would translate to the real world. This summer, I had a communications internship with Young Life Africa/Middle East. Within this role, I had the privilege of acting as what I call a “story translator.” I received stories and biographies written by non-English speakers that had been rendered in English through Google Translate. My job was to rework these stories to be legible and coherent while dignifying the original authors’ voices.
Many of the stories were about people without a channel of their own through which they could share their story. I served as a middlewoman between author and audience, bringing the stories from their source to a wider English-speaking readership.
This task proved to be incredibly rewarding. I was honored to be trusted with the work of communicating the story of another. It is a weighty thing to hold the details of another’s life and decide how to best represent the subject with dignity while also remaining compelling. I loved this work—it reminded me of my work at the Writing Center and made me thankful for the lessons about empowerment that I had already learned.
However, writing and rewriting, editing and deleting are not often glorious and exciting tasks. I frequently found myself getting bored while rewriting the stories for my internship. I often felt as if the work I was doing for my internship lacked the value and potential to make a true difference in the lives of those whose stories I was sharing. However, I soon realized that the work I was doing, albeit sometimes mundane, amplified the voices of non-English speakers for a new audience. I was reminded of the “kingdom work” that I was doing—a small but valuable role that I learned not to take for granted.
As a Christian writer, I have learned about the importance of empowering others through writing, whether it be working alongside clients at the Writing Center or doing communications for my Young Life internship. Through this, Christians can “encourage one another and build each other up” for even greater work within the kingdom of God (1 Thess. 5:11).
I am glad the Writing Center introduced me to the concept of empowerment within work; I value that experience and hope to continue amplifying the voices of others in my future work. And we should empower others in all areas of our lives, not just our work. The work of enabling and strengthening others is powerful, and we should not take lightly the ways we can serve others through empowering them.