Why do you write? Yes, you. Quickly don't think about it. Why do you write? No, I don't mean why do you write when you have to write. I mean why do you write when you want to write? Still no answer? Wait. There it is; you have it. If you do not yet have "it," do not worry. Spend the rest of the day thinking about it and you will discover a reason sooner or later.
B.T. Cassidy, the writer of The Anatomy of Construction has an opening remark on his BlogCatalog page that echoes my sentiments perfectly. He writes, "I believe we can all write, and all have stories to tell." For years, I have read my students' stories, tales of voyages across the sea in an inflatable raft as they watched others around them drown or about starting over after divorce, addiction or missteps. Some of these stories depict situations and circumstances that seem foreign to me and that I have never experienced. In my sheltered world, these catastrophic life changing events just do not occur, or do they and have I just been too blind to see? Other times, I find it difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the anguish or the sacrifice. Without warning I am reminded of the struggles and challenges so many people face in other countries with limited resources, limited freedom and limited opportunities. Sitting motionless in front of my class, I read essays written by those who in their short years have lived through experiences no one should have ever had to live. Fighting back my emotions and trying to avoid making a fool of myself, I sit there twisting and turning lowering my head so no one will see as the tears roll down my face. No, not all stories are tragic and depressing. In fact, even some of the very sad stories have happy endings, and I always love a happy ending. To my surprise, regardless of the hurdles, these writers have not lost hope. They continue to move, progress, change and adapt while they attempt to prosper and achieve their desired dreams.
Recently, one of my students wrote about her experience during the Kosovo and Serbian war, and how she watched her father die. Her home was destroyed, and to escape the violence and carnage around her, she and her family walked away with nothing...absolutely nothing. Everything she knew and owned was obliterated in just moments. Her material loss was insignificant in comparison to her emotional distress at the sight of her father's death. I spent days thinking about her, what she must have felt, what she must have endured for days, weeks or even years. The shadows behind her letters and words reflect the wounds she still carries within her. Though I am a fairly positive person, I must candidly admit that sometimes I just cannot fathom how some people survive such circumstances without losing their sanity or most importantly their humanity. Words on white paper describe and reflect the human being who wrote them. And so as the reader of the story, I must serve a multi-purpose role. I am audience. I am conductor. I am orchestra. And I applaud and cheer on.
We should tell these stories, express our sorrow or describe our joy. In my classroom, I hope my students find refuge and that it serves as their sanctuary, a place to explore, fail and learn, and as we enter this place together, I want them to know that I too am a fragile life long learner. And so why do I write? I write because it is in the words that I replenish myself. It is in the words that I find oxygen and life. The words allow me to express who I am, what I am and what I feel. They provide me a stage, a platform to reveal my essence. The words on white paper are permanent, everlasting and a mirror of my soul.