I gave a girl goose bumps today. She was blow-drying my hair, and she asked me what I did for a living. When I told her I teach memoir, personal essay, and blogging courses, she shivered.
“I am very sensitive, and I have felt like I need to write down my feelings and tell my story,” she said.
“Writing is certainly cathartic. I believe everyone should write whether they intend to make it public or keep it private.”
“Wow, I feel as if I was supposed to meet you today,” she said with a huge smile.
I wished I had my glasses on so could read her tattoo that was on her shoulder. It was in black script on the front of her shoulder blade. Her shirt was draped, so the tattoo was clearly visible, and I imagined it was perhaps a quote or a line from a poem.
We exchanged emails, and I hoped that she was serious about her interest in writing. Many times have I met someone who longs to write, but their fear usually stops them from putting one word on the page. Fears can range from lack of confidence about having anything important to say, to the fear that they do not have mastery of the proper mechanics to craft an essay.
In Robert Pendiscio’s article, “How Self Expression Damaged My Students,” (Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 2012) he wrote: Let me hasten to add that there should be no war between expressive writing and explicit teaching of grammar and mechanics. It’s not an either/or proposition. Kids are more likely to become engaged, thoughtful writers if they feel comfortable and competent with language.
I believe that taking the step to express yourself through writing is paramount. If you are worried you do not have a strong understanding of craft, you can certainly learn by reading, by working with a copyeditor, or by enrolling in a writing course.
Lucy Calkins, Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University’s Teachers College wrote: When our students resist writing, it is usually because writing has been treated as little more than a place to expose all they do not know about spelling, penmanship, and grammar.
I do hope the young girl from the salon takes my class next month. Whether she was an English major who never pursued her writing or a person who lacks all the grammar and writing craft needed to construct a well-written piece, she will begin the journey of self-expression. I guarantee it will be a journey worth taking.
Andrea Tate is a monthly blogger for Lunch Ticket. She has been published in Role/Reboot, A Daily Dose of Lit, Bleed, Odyssey, and Acorn. Her story “You” was published in the 2013 anthology for Extracts. Andrea has served as a Creative Nonfiction Editor and Assistant Editor for Lunch Ticket. This year she will teach the online course for AULA Let’s Get Personal—How to Write a Personal Essay. An advocate for theatre arts, Andrea directs as well as teaches after-school enrichment in the greater Los Angeles area. Email her at andreatate(at)me.com