Last year I had to write a paper for my English 101 class on the topic "Who Am I?". I'd like to share it here. It may inspire one of you, but in the very least it still inspires me. Only a few things have changed since writing it, which I will touch on after.
Who Am I? I am a Writer
Who Am I? According to Ralph Waldo Emerson (1903), “The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression” (p.5). My expression lies in the same form as that great man. I am a writer. I would not be complete without that part of me. There was a time in my life when I stopped writing, believing that nothing I had to say was worthwhile. That period was marked by emptiness. Once I finally returned to writing, I found the purpose I had been lacking. I knew I could never give up writing again. I write because I must. To forever stop writing would be akin to stopping my lungs from breathing. It would be death. First I’m going to tell you the role of the writer in society. Then I’m going to share with you how and why I started writing. Last of all, I’ll focus on the different forms my writing takes—poetry, journaling, and fiction.
The world needs writers. They record history, entertain, educate, and enlighten. Writers find beauty and meaning in the day to day life around us, and they have the aptitude with language to communicate that with the world. Emerson (2004) says it better than I:
There is no man who does not anticipate a supersensual utility in the sun and stars, earth and water. These stand and wait to render him a peculiar service. But there is some obstruction or some excess of phlegm in our constitution, which does not suffer them to yield the due effect. Too feeble fall the impression of nature on us to make us artists. Every touch should thrill. Every man should be so much an artist that he could report in conversation what had befallen him. Yet, in our experience, the rays or appulses have sufficient force to arrive at the senses, but not enough to reach the quick and compel the reproduction of themselves in speech. The poet is the person in whom these powers are in balance, the man without impediment, who sees and handles that which others dream of, traverses the whole scale of experience, and is representative of man. (pp. 5-6)
Writers can be incredibly honest in writing about human nature. Reading is a private business, allowing the words of a writer to speak directly to the reader’s soul. This frees them to say what no one else will. Even in a world saturated with computers and the internet, people still turn to books. The Book Industry Study Group has even forecast an increase in total book sales of 3.6% more than last year (Milliot, 2006). Nevertheless, if books were to go out of fashion, writers would still be needed for business, e-books, and web writing. Writing may not be the most profitable, but that simply means that those who do write do so for passion.
I first started writing stories at a young age. I was one of the two top readers in my first grade class, and the teacher encouraged us to write a story while the rest of the students worked on their basics. I still have that story. It wasn’t very good, but my teacher and parents were very encouraging. I was an imaginative child and my sisters and I would tell stories to each other. As I grew up, my dreams would change--wanting to be an artist, a scientist, or a dancer--but the one thing that remained consistent was my desire to be a writer. I’ve always been in love with books. They take me away to mystical and wonderful places. I grew up the middle of nine children, and books were a way for me to escape the surrounding chaos. I started my first attempt of a book in fifth grade. We moved that year, and I lost many of my notes. I may have given up on that story, but the desire to write a book remains. I want to write a book that will entertain and enchant a reader, giving them sanctuary from the world as the books I read did for me.
It was also in fifth grade when I discovered poetry. We had a section on Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I really enjoyed his poetry and as a result wrote my own humorous poem. However, it wasn’t until the end of junior high that I really considered myself a poet. I was going through the typical teenage emotions, as well as struggling with some issues from my childhood. I needed a way to deal with it all. I used poetry as a catharsis and to communicate all the emotions that were so hard for me. I was so shy and withdrawn; my poems gave me a way to reach out to people and let them understand me. My poetry has branched out to include more topics than myself, but the majority of my writing still has an underlying theme of emotional pain.
Another way that I dealt with life was through journal writing. In junior high and high school, my journal was my constant companion. I didn’t have any close friends to confide in, so I confided in my journal instead. I wrote about everything. It kept me in the habit of writing regularly, and helped me keep mentally stable. An added benefit is being able to go back and read my journals. I can relive moments, see how much I’ve grown, and keep them as a record of my life. I wish I had started journal writing at an earlier age. I feel like so many years are missing simply because I do not remember many details.
About a year ago I discovered blogging. Initially, I still wrote in my journal and only used my blog for organizing my thoughts about my writings. After a few months, I realized the benefits of being able to share my thoughts and problems with a community, receiving support and feedback. It had all the benefits of journal writing, with the added advantage of group therapy. Now I only use my journal for private issues. The title for my blog is “Discovering Me.” It is my journey of discovery within myself and my writing. I have many motivations to continue blogging: keeping in touch with friends, therapy, working through my thoughts, and writing practice.
Last, but not least, I am a fiction writer. I’ve written a handful of short stories, but looking back they all have one thing in common—school assignments. I do not consider myself a short story writer. I like some of the stories I’ve written, but I don’t think that’s where my talent lies. I prefer to go more in-depth with the characters and plot. My focus is on the novel. As I said earlier, I want to write a book that will allow readers to escape to another world. The fantasy novel I’m working on now is one I’ve been wanting to write since I was sixteen. I didn’t have the knowledge, skills, or confidence to write it back then. The plot has changed some, but it’s much stronger now. I’ve made some great progress on my novel these last few months and plan to finish it within the next couple of years. Writing this book has been the hardest and most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done. Every time I finish a scene or chapter, my confidence goes up. It is so exciting to see the story unfold. According to Betsy Lerner (2000), a former editor in New York’s top publishing houses, “For every person who writes a book, there are thousands who believe they could” (p. 236). I am determined to be one of those that does. I will finish this book and send it out for publication.
My goal isn’t to get on the New York Times bestseller list. Not to say I wouldn’t love for that to happen, but I’m more realistic. I simply want to get my book published. I want to share my book with the world. After this book, I have plans to write another. In fact, I have ideas for three more novels. I don’t plan on quitting after just one book, regardless of whether it sells. However, I cannot get published if I don’t have a book finished. To work toward that goal, I have challenged myself to write at least one chapter each month. In addition to the goals for my novel, I also have goals for my poetry. I’m constantly sending out my poems to magazines and online markets in the attempt to get published. So far this year, I have sent out 34 poems. Three have been accepted so far, for the online press The Pink Chameleon. I didn’t receive monetary compensation, but it gives me something to put in my publishing credits. With enough credits behind me, I can aim for more notable markets. Eventually, I want to publish a book of poetry. Each time I make progress on my goals I gain a satisfaction and confidence which carries over into the other aspects of my life. My writing completes me.
Being a writer is a crucial part to my identity, whether it be writing poetry, journaling in a diary or blog, or working on a novel. All these are expressions of my soul and in turn shape me as the person I am. My writing allows me to stand out to the world as I never could any other way. It is the only way for an introspective person such as I am to be bold and confident. I let people see me through my writing. Lerner (2000) says it well, “Indeed, the great paradox of the writer’s life is how much time he spends alone trying to connect with other people” (p. 36). I am determined to continue writing and pursuing my goals. Someday you will see my byline on a book. The world needs writers. The world needs me.
Emerson, R.W. (1903). The Poet. The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson (pp. 1-42). Houghton, Mifflin and company.
Lerner, B. (2000). The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.
Milliot, J. (2006, May 22). Book Sales Projected to Increase 3% in 2006. Publisher’s Weekly, p. 3.
I have since written a novella and am getting more confident in my short story writing. The blog mentioned, Discovering Me, is my one on Writing.com. I haven't written there much since I started this one. But other than that, the above still applies.
We are all creators... not just of art, but relationships, homes, personal space, etc. What do you create? Why do you create?