Being a writer has been my dream since I was six years old. I had been a good writer in elementary school and middle school, but once I hit high school, no one seemed to care that I was the best reader of my kindergarten class and the best writer of my first, second, and third grade classes. In fact, most of my English teachers did not encourage me to be a writer. One of my teachers in high school accused me of plagiarism. After someone who should know a thing or two about English insulted my ability to write a good paper, it became difficult to accept compliments about my writing. So I stopped. Instead of writing poems and short stories after school, I would pick up my guitar or violin and sing songs that had already been written. Instead of writing papers that expressed my voice, I wrote whatever my teachers wanted me to write. I lost my voice. Whatever awards I had won in the past did not matter anymore. If I did not have the opportunity to use my voice, there was no way I could develop it.
In college, I studied Intercultural Studies. I had developed a passion for learning about other cultures. Nevertheless, writing followed me. My friends asked me to look over their school papers. Even though it was extra work, every time they asked me, I enjoyed using the editing skills that I had learned at a young age. In my sophomore year of college, I decided to join the school’s newspaper staff. I had been the editor-in-chief of my high school’s newspaper, so I thought I could try writing again. Later in the semester, I applied to work at my college’s writing center. Although I was nervous that I was not a good enough writer for this position, my colleagues saw potential in me that I had not been able to see in myself.
Eventually, my identity on my campus was the girl who worked at the writing center. I loved helping students with their papers more than anything else. Because of the criticism that I faced in eleventh grade, I was able to empathize with students who did not have confidence in their papers. People began to come to me because they knew that I could see the good in their papers.
I still did not have confidence in my writing, even after becoming layout editor of my school’s newspaper and having students request me at my job. My friends would tell me that I should change my major to English. I made up excuses, but the truth is that I was scared of rejection yet again. English professors, who have doctorates in English, should know good writing when they see it, and I was scared that they would not consider my writing “good.” Besides, I enjoyed my Intercultural Studies major. I did not want to change majors when I was already in such a great program.
My major actually encouraged me to break out of my fear of writing. I was required to go out of the country and serve in some way overseas. Before I went to Spain, I wrote a travel blog. While out of the country, I journaled to process my feelings. During siesta, I would sit on the couch and write (in English and Spanish) pages and pages of emotions and events. I continued to journal when I returned from Spain. I would write everything in my journal, from reminders to inspiring quotations to my own feelings. I wanted to remember everything I heard and felt so that I could look back on it in the future.
My friends would notice my journals. They were able to see that I had not only the ability but the passion to write. My passion for writing was something I could not hide, no matter how hard I tried to pretend it was not a big deal to me. During my last semester of college, I met a great group of people that helped me to feel confident in myself as well as in my writing. They were able to show me that my English teacher in high school told me a lie that I believed for years: This paper is too good to be your writing. You’re not THAT good. I had so many people encourage me, that the lie suddenly did not make sense anymore. I realized that writing is not just what I do; writing is who I am.
So this is my voice. I am not afraid of it anymore. I welcome constructive criticism, but nothing can stop me from speaking what I have to say. I have a faith in and relationship with God that will become evident in my writing; it is not something I will try to hide. As you read this blog, I hope that it encourages you to know that your words matter. You have the power to speak life or to speak death. You can use your voice to ruin a person’s dream, or you can use your voice to help those in need. I am going to use my voice to speak truth, hope, and love, and to encourage those who do not have a voice to stand firm in who they are.