photo courtesy of CC Chapman on Flickr

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:



  1. Reply

    With the advent of social media and blogging, do you find yourself writing more for a public audience than you used to? Do you miss the solitude of poetry? Or do you still embrace that as much as you did in the beginning?

    • mbteach


      Great question. I think writing serves a purpose or fills a need. Right now I need to converse and share my ideas broadly.

      I do miss that more introverted writing, though. Mostly because I find that I have less and less time for those kinds of musings. They usually happen while I’m sitting on the subway or walking around my neighborhood. If I slowed my life down some more, maybe I would turn those ruminations into written word.

      Do you find that you write differently when you write for a public audience? What is your purpose/need for writing (or did I miss your post on that topic?)

  2. Reply

    I appreciate everything that you write! Looking back at your first blog entry is so interesting because some of that is the same reason I started blogging last year. I began writing for myself and thought others might find it therapeutic. Now I find some asking me to post on specific topics. It is so cool to be a part of a collaborative atmosphere of writing and reading!

    • mbteach


      Thanks, Brian.

      It would be interesting to see what the catalysts were for our blogging community. I’m sure they are all very different but very similar at the same time.

    • mbteach


      Great question, Kirsten. Writing publicly really makes me write more carefully. I am always thinking about the reader. The medium I use to write has also influence how I write since now I can embed links and use images to help tell a story.

      As for what it means to me, I think it means that my means of personal expression are driven more by my career than my own musings (though they are very intertwined). I think this is because my life as a teenager and young adult was filled with emotion and the day to day experiences of a young person in the environment I was in (sometimes that meant traipsing around or just hanging out with friends—I had a pretty awesome adolescence and college experience). Now, my days are filled with children, learning, frustrations, celebrations, housework, cooking dinner, all of those fun adult things 🙂

      I guess what I’m trying to get at is that my writing reflects my surroundings and my experiences. But I think we knew that already!

  3. Reply

    Mary Beth, this post is so special because I can relate to it, writing to share even if no one reads it. Thanks for sharing the thoughts and ideas in your head through your blog. Thanks for being brave enough to put yourself out there. I’ve learned, and continue to learn, a lot from them 🙂

    • mbteach


      Thanks, Priscilla! Sometimes the only audience/reader we need is ourselves. Just reading our own thoughts on paper can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves. Sometimes I think it’s less about being brave and more about fulfilling a need to be heard! (whether, as you say, anyone is listening or not!)

  4. kalimullahmarwat


    I’m passing through the same stages that you have mentioned.I think the recent technology has made us available some of the wonderful works like that of your all most free of any cost and we can read and enjoy sitting in our cozy little bedrooms with our spouses.

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