“The only thing I have to offer is my voice.”
I often say this in the context of worship groups that I belong to where everyone seems to be able to play three instruments, read music and sing all the time. Literally the only thing I can offer are my miserable vocal cords.
New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Woodson was the keynote speaker at Saint Mary’s Christian Culture Conference last Thursday. His thoughts on his experiences as a writer over the past 30+ years have made me reflect on my time as an amateur writer over the past thirteen years – it’s nothing compared to expertise. de Woodson, but I, seven, have certainly made progress.
As she spoke about what inspires her to write – her family, life experiences and her own sanity were among the main motivations – I thought about what inspires me. It reminded me of the days when our MacBook sat in its own special room and I sat, my eyes wide with excitement as my little nine-year-old hands flew across the keyboard. I remember the first “novel” I tried. It was something about a princess who had met a witch in the woods and for some reason all she ate was granola bars. It didn’t make sense, but it was a start. I don’t think I ever gave it an end for two reasons. One, because I had never had formal experience of how to finish a novel (it is not this formal experience that is necessary, but it helps), but two, because none of my characters are was me. None of my characters were based on anything other than fiction.
I envy writers who can create wonderful fantasies in their minds – think JK Rowling or Rick Riordan. I am simply unable to write pure fiction. Woodson shared a similar experience in that she explained that all of her characters have a little bit of her in them. I wondered if all the award winning authors felt the same. Sadly, I don’t have a chance to ask Rowling or Riordan if this rings true for them, too, but I can’t help but think it might. I at least know for myself, writing from my life works a lot better than from something I’ve never experienced.
I thought about what inspires me, however. If it’s not witches and princesses and granola bars, then what motivates me to sit down at my computer now and write on the handwriting? I thought about the times when I would be afraid to say something to my parents, especially if I was in trouble, and instead of telling them, I would write it down on paper as a letter.
The writing knew how to give a voice to words that I cannot say out loud. Woodson emphasized the encouragement of writing and the creativity of young people. If my parents had never encouraged me to keep writing, to keep sharing those words that I wouldn’t have found the courage to say out loud, I wonder what would have happened.
Now I write because I have the privilege of doing so. I write because it’s important. I write because words matter. I write because I have no choice. If we, as a society, don’t write, don’t record, we won’t have history, no memory. I encourage you to write so that you too can find your voice, so that you can find the courage to share your truth with the world.
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The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.