As many of you may know, tomorrow is the National Day on Writing. I feel compelled to write this post mostly because I have been writing consistently for almost 20 years and it is part of who I am.
Tucked away in my hallway closet upstairs, wrapped in a plastic bag, are the scribblings, musings, rants and poetry of the last 15-20 years of my life. I’m not sure why I started keeping a journal, but I now have at least 6 of them full to the brim that document everything from detailed descriptions of hanging out with my friends in high school to larger ruminations on themes in Demian to poems lamenting love lost or heart broken.
Perhaps I started writing because I needed someone to listen. I never expected anyone to ever read what I wrote, but it was therapeutic to get my thoughts down on paper. Sometimes, when forced to do so, I might stop and think about how silly I was being. Or, I might be able to work through some kind of emotional pain or anger and come out on the other side with a clearer mind. Whatever the reason, writing was my solace, my savior and my best friend.
I didn’t have a lot of close friends growing up. I wasn’t the kind of girl who whispered secrets or poured her heart out to a BFF. I was a pretty secretive person. Writing filled that burning desire to tell someone, to share my experiences and my opinions or fears or shortcomings or doubts. It was safer for me to write down my feelings than to share them with someone else.
If I could call myself a writer back then, then I would say I was also a voracious reader. Much of my desire to write came from the way that books filled me with inspiration, ideas and caused me to reflect on my own life. Reading was my pathway to the pen. In many ways, this has not changed.
One of the landmark changes in my writing occurred when I began to dabble with poetry. After reading some poems of Saul Williams and taking a writers’ workshop in high school, I began to enjoy the word play, symbolism and brevity of emotion that poetry enabled. These were also some of the first pieces of writing that I ever shared with others, that I opened up to critique. It was powerful stuff.
I continued to write poems throughout college, performing one at a spoken word event and eventually turning them into a handmade books as Christmas presents for my friends and family in 2004. (I actually just self-published a book on Lulu of some of the same poems. I don’t profess it to be the best poetry you’ve ever read.)
About 3 1/2 years ago, I had another huge transition in my writing. I began my Philly Teacher blog. I was still writing in my journal, though the hectic schedule of a teacher prohibited me from visiting it every night. (To this day, I continue to keep a journal next to my bed in case I get the urge—which I still do from time to time.) I decided, though, on December 23, 2008, to trade in the personal, tucked away writing style for something more public. I wrote my first post, The Purpose. Since then, my writing has been anything but private. Now I write, not for myself, but for others. I am transparent, open and honest. I have readers, I receive feedback on my writing.
I’m not sure what flipped inside of me to make such a transition. Maybe it was that transition into adulthood. Maybe the internal need to share became less selfish. I’ll never know.
What I do know is that it has made all of the difference.
It doesn’t matter why I write–it just matters that I do. I think more clearly, I learn better and sometimes I just manage to stay sane.
Why do you write?
For more on the National Day on Writing: http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/3663