You walk into the classroom with your nerves firing.  You hear the buzzing of excited conversation being exchanged between your new classmates.  This is your first writing class at a college level, and you know that more will now be expected of you.  However, you can stop those firing nerves due to the wise words of Peter Elbow.  He states, “Writing calls on two skills that are so different that they usually conflict with each other: creating and criticizing.��?  I have come to find out that he was very right.  In fact, these two skills are what got me through my college writing classes.  Creating and criticizing are the two most important skills to be developed in your college writing career.
In high school, I was always given the topics to write research papers on.  That all changed when I entered college.  The professors were asking me to create my own topic, find my own research, and make my own claim from that research.  It was like being thrown into the middle of Lake Superior without first knowing how to swim.  Then, one of my professors taught me that the first essential skill was to learn how to create.  He used the mind map trick.  This awesome technique can be used for coming up with a topic along with figuring out where you want to go with that topic.  You first grab a piece of paper and put a subject that you are interested in on the middle.  You then branch off from that subject with connecting ideas.  Before you know it, you have a paper full of creative thoughts to pursue.  I use this technique for all my research papers now, and it no longer takes me 2 weeks to create an idea.
After you have a grip on the creating aspect of writing, it is time for the aspect that makes grown men shutter.  The criticizing aspect of your writing is the second most import skill of writing at a college level.  Upon receiving my first paper back with tons of red writing all over it, I almost had a heart attack.  What was the red writing?  It was the writing of the teacher telling me to get rid of some of my creating!  I took it hard.  However, after completing my remaining composition classes, I am now so thankful for criticizing.  It makes your paper more concrete ideas and less fluffy ones.  This skill has taught me that writing is not about filling pages, but about depth and development.  It opened the true reason for writing for me, and I am very thankful.
I, too, was nervous walking into every new college-level writing course I had.  Now, I don’t have to be.  I just follow the words of Peter Elbow and know the two skills I need to write a successful paper.  These two most important skills are creating and criticizing, and they have changed my life in the world of writing.