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On Writing

“Writing is how I come to know myself.

The blank page is my mirror, my teacher,

my salvation.”*

Dani Shapiro

I have done volunteer work in my kids’ schools and occasionally teach at The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing workshop in Portland for kids ages 6-18. My classes are not necessarily kids who choose writing. Sometimes, there are kids who no more want to write a story than eat sand. They’re being forced to learn to write.

I watch as they scrunch their faces up, puzzeled and frustrated. Sometimes they’re bored or stumped and without a single thought they feel worthy of getting on the page. They tap their pencils on their desks or on their temples, chew the erasers or chew their hair. Their small hands grip the pencil tightly and painfully as they fight to get a sentence down.

But some of the students….(and I)….come alive when asked to write something down. Writing to us is as natural and free flowing as breathing. We cannot NOT write. We find we need to write every day – when we’re happy, when we’re sad, when we’re struggling to come up with an answer to something.

I’ve let go of my childhood pink and purple pens and fat slanted-backward penmanship in favor of a laptop. My fingers fly over the keyboard; I type faster than I can think.

I stopped writing for 18 years wondering who was I and what did I have to say. But after 18 years away, I knew what I had to say was enough. It was enough for me. It gave me pleasure and clarity. I am enough.

And writing is who I am.*

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