Why I Write: Because There Is Power in Storytelling
Date: November 22, 2011
Summary: Heather Wolpert-Gawron, teacher-consultant at the UC Irvine Writing Project, shares how writing has become a timeline reflecting the chapters of her life.
The reason I write has changed through the years, but it has become a timeline that reflects my many chapters of life.
When I was 8, I wrote because I had a story to tell. Looking back, it may not have been a winning story, something about a mystic rooster that was coming to heal some fantasy-land, but I had a sense to begin with a hook. It started with dialogue, if I recall. "Bloo-fah is coming," I had written. I recall that I thought it was an appropriately fantastical name and a very dramatic start to the adventure in my head.
When I was 13, I wrote because I had to. It was in eighth grade, however, when I had my first eureka moment about word choice. I remember having to write an essay about ballooning around the world, a narrative to go hand in hand with "Around the World in 80 Days" which our class was reading that quarter. I remember being frustrated that I couldn't describe what was in my head. Then, pop! I had my eureka. "What about those adjective-thingies that my teachers have been telling me about since third grade?" And suddenly, I was flooded with description words. The balloon was yellow, it was billowy, and the like. I got an A on the essay, but the red pen at the bottom said, "Watch out -- too descriptive." Sigh.
When I was 17, I wrote to get into college. I wrote paper after paper, following the structure that I felt for sure would get me accepted. Was it the right format? Did it stray too far from the conventional outline?
When I was 21, I wrote because it was a means to a graded end. I was robotic in my headers and footers, my cover pages and bibliographies. I typed away at my Mac SE, my word processing box that dispensed my English composition essays and analysis essays and occasional narratives. It was in college, however, that I had my second eureka moment about writing. I could enjoy it. I could enjoy making people laugh with a phrase or cry with a shared snapshot little recognized as a common memory. I enjoyed writing about personal experience, and I began to set goals for myself based on my body's responses. When I got goose bumps, then I had hit the mark on a revision. When I teared up myself, then I had to really go with that sentence or two. When I broke out in barked laughter at my own turn of phrase, I knew it couldn't be cut. I realized that writing nourished me.
I wrote because a fire was lit within me and I discovered the National Writing Project.
When I was 30, I wrote because I was then teaching how to write. It forced me to analyze writing by deconstructing its parts. I couldn't just define something written well as that which makes you sigh. I couldn't just say "sentence variety," I had to pull a brilliant piece apart for the sake of those who maybe didn't normally read, and show them the roller coaster on which different sentence types took the reader. The participle phrase took them up and up, then the absolute shot them down the hill, they ducked around a corner with a list after a colon, they swerved the other way with a compound-complex sentence only to be halted -- bam! -- just like that, by a two-word sentence.
When I was 35, I wrote because a fire was lit within me and I discovered the National Writing Project. I was introduced to the greatest teachers of writing. I was introduced to a room of educators who believed that they could change education by teaching students to communicate their logic, their passions, and their dreams, through their writing, regardless of one's subject matter.
Now, at 40, I write again because I have a story to tell. I write because I cannot not write. I write because I deeply believe that we must invest in our own talents and ourselves in order to create better chapters in our own lives and in the lives of others. I write because even if I stunk, even if nobody listened, even if there were silence when that tree fell in the forest all alone, I could not stop writing.
I write because there is power in storytelling, power in advocacy, and power in sharing one's saga.
I write because it is what I must do to feel like a person who has an impact on the world around her, and I believe that if we can give our students that feeling of empowerment and ownership through writing of their own world, then we will have given them and their world a gift of truth through the prism of perspectives.