by Tina Blue
December 30, 2001
"Street writing" is what I call the writing techniques that I teach to my English 101 students here at Kansas University (and that I elaborate in the articles on this website). I call my techniques "street writing" because, like street fighting techniques, they aren't pretty. Street writing is more concerned with "winning" than with observing the niceties of form, many of which are just elaborate ways to spend time "clearing the desk" rather than getting down to the business of actually writing the darned essay.
One of the most insurmountable barriers for many inexperienced writers (and sometimes even for experienced ones) is fear. Fear of the blank page. Fear of getting started. Fear of not having enough ideas or information to flesh out an essay. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of making a fool of oneself. Above all, fear of being judged.
Unfortunately, most of the techniques taught in writing courses for choosing a topic, defining a thesis, getting started, organizing an essay, fleshing out ideas, writing an introduction or a conclusion, polishing style, and correcting mechanical errors really don't work all that well. In fact, the best thing I can say about them is that they are easy to write about, so endless writing texts can be cranked out explaining them; and they are easy to devise exercises for, so endless classroom hours can be filled with the illusion that something useful is being accomplished.
But, hey, if these techniques actually worked, then students wouldn't be such crummy writers--and writing wouldn't be such a nightmare for them. Right?
What students need--actually, what all sorts of writers need--are down and dirty (read "practical") writing strategies that produce results, that get the writer from his starting point (usually an essay assignment) to a finished product, with a minimum of wasted effort along the way.
In other words, they need to learn street writing.