My Story — My Voice
My friend Diane is one of the most intelligent people I know. We met in graduate school and years later actually worked together for several years. One summer she took a writing workshop that I co-taught. Everyone has a story about how they came to writing and eventually we will put that story into words. If we are lucky there will be a group of supportive friends who are that ‘safety zone’ for sharing.
Writing is very personal. For me it is a never-ending journey of trying to find myself. That journey led me along many divergent paths and it continues to this day. One thing about teaching writing to children as well as adults, they all have similar stories of why they write or why they fight writing.
Those who fight writing usually have had someone in their past who told them their writing was not good. Children come to us in Kindergarten knowing they are writers and along the way we as good intending educators kill the writer in them. We force them to follow prescriptive formulas when they write. Tell them they must have at least five paragraphs and five sentences in every paragraph … and of course the obligatory beginning, middle and ending when all they want to do is tell their story or stories in their own way … in their own voice and be proud to share it with others … usually the teachers in their life.
Diane was one of those children who loved to write. At some point in elementary school, a teacher told her she would never be a writer. Of course this destroyed her completely and from that point on no longer wrote for pleasure. She shared this with the members of the writing workshop and then went on to say, “I no longer think I will not be a writer.” The workshop had given her the ability to write as she pleased, share and make and changes to her writing … on her own terms. Diane rediscovered her voice and found she enjoyed writing again as she did when she was a child … especially writing poetry.
One of the things that freed me with writing was being told by my mentor, “Rules are made to be broken.” She didn’t mean to ignore the writing conventions completely, but for our true selves … our true voice … our stories … we were allowed to break a rule or two along the way. For me, I was free when she told me, “Not all poetry has to rhyme!”
I have lost count of the number of adults and children who had a version of Diane’s writing journey … I have come to call it ‘writing phobia’ because they are afraid anything they write will never be ‘good enough’ for someone’s standards. The bottom line, at least for me, is that we all have our own writing standards and those are the important ones. Nearly all the interviews of famous writers I have read say something along similar to this, “Write for yourself. Write what you want to read. Have an audience in mind, but write for yourself first and foremost.
For anyone reading this … do not allow anyone to ever silence your story or your voice.
Not my usual Sunday Morning story, but this is something I felt needed to be said.