The Polishing Process

Feb 05, 2018 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


           Oh, the thrill of receiving back my Young Authors of Illinois submission with a gold foil sticker embossed with a large star and the word Winner! My masterpiece was entitled “The Battle of Gettysburg” and contained my own rendition of this particular Civil War battle along with detailed illustrations in crayon from my own third-grade hand. Along with this victory of victories, I was dubbed a “good writer.” Now, I must be clear that my experience up to that point and for the next nine years was less than ideal. It would have been so beneficial for my instructors to have known and embraced avoiding the four deadly errors when it came to teaching writing (and many other things) in both my public and private school experiences. It wasn’t to be. Since I was dubbed a “good writer,” there did not seem to be a need to give me further instruction. Since I was supposed to be a “good writer,” I did not think I could ask for help. Thus, as I was corralled through each grade and the assignments and concepts advanced, I increasingly fell behind and never could catch up. This even applied to real world situations, such as when my family moved to a new state and I tried to maintain pen pals. Unfortunately, in my desire to maintain my “good writer” status, my anxiety over creating a “perfect product” led me to procrastinate and eventually not even respond. After a few more attempts to reach me, my old friends stopped writing to me as well. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, or even that I didn’t have ideas. It was specifically that I did not know how to get the ideas out of my head in a coherent format, and I couldn’t make the words sound how I wanted them to. Looking back, it is quite clear that I was sorely lacking in both “structure” and “style.”

           It’s been almost a year since I began working for IEW and just over a semester of formally working on the Structure and Style™ method with my children. Beyond helping them to develop as writers, I have found that teaching them Structure and Style is truly allowing them to become “confident and competent communicators and thinkers.” Most importantly, having the right tool at the right time is empowering my students to avoid suffering the same fate that I did. For instance, I’ll never forget the smile that blossomed on my younger son’s face the first time he added an -ly adverb (“rapidly”) to a sentence, which actually allowed him to convey the urgency of his character’s action unlike he had been able to do before. On another assignment, his paper began to ramble on and on until we were able to rein it all back in together using the topic-clincher rule in each paragraph for a more concise presentation. My oldest son definitely strives for perfection, but learning to “some-a-rize” and sticking to his fused outline has taken so much of the strain out of actually composing and finishing a paper he can feel proud of. My oldest daughter, who has been in the process of composing a novel in her free time, is beginning to see that some of the writer’s block that has discouraged her in the past might just be surmountable as we discuss and practice how to think!

           The concepts and philosophy of Structure and Style were the very things that I was missing in my educational and personal communication endeavors. However, it has been quite consoling to now utilize this method and create a different path for my own students. Andrew Pudewa states that “We are engaged in the great work of empowering a wave of young people who will not only have access to the truth, but will have the means and the motivation to boldly enter the war of ideas, employing powerfully the spoken and written word.” While we parents and teachers strive to provide real opportunities to allow our students to be the generation that conquers a corrupt culture, the simple thrill of a well utilized dress-up or an assignment completed with minimal stress is just fine for now. A gleaming sticker affixed to a story or a polished and well-phrased letter does not qualify one as a “good writer.” The developmental process is the key. Succeed in that, and then one day the product will shine.


Evan Smith is originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, but has called Oklahoma home since 1997. With a background in sales, customer service, distribution, and special needs job coaching, he has been excited to contribute to IEW's company mission since joining the team in 2017. Evan's greatest accomplishment was to marry his wife, Kathryn, and begin their family together in 2006. They reside in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, with their six children and one dog. Evan enjoys reading to his family, telling stories, singing, playing guitar, riding mountain bikes, and drinking coffee.

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