In this paper Amanda Fulford addresses the issue of student writing in the university, and explores how the increasing dominance of outcome-driven modes of learning and assessment is changing the understanding of what it is to write, what is expected of students in their writing, and how academic writing should best be supported. The starting point is the increasing use of what are termed “technologies” of writing — “handbooks” for students that address issues of academic writing — that systematize, and smooth the work of writing in, Fulford argues, an unhelpful way. This leads to a reconsideration of what it means to write in the university, and what it is to be a student who writes. Fulford explores etymologically the concept of “writing” and suggests that it might be seen metaphorically as physical labor. Writing as physical labor is explored further through the agricultural metaphors in Henry David Thoreau's Walden and through Stanley Cavell's reading of that text. In making a distinction between writing-as-plowing and writing-as-hoeing, Fulford argues that some technologies of writing deny voice rather than facilitate it, and she concludes by offering a number of suggestions for the teaching and learning of writing in the university that emphasize the value of being lost (in one's subject and one's work) and finding one's own way out. These “lessons” are illustrated with reference to Thoreau's text Walden and to American literature and film.