Becoming a Writer—with a Capital W

Ever since I started dedicating the time to write Defiance, I have been hard on myself when even a day goes by that I haven’t thought about it or written anything for it. I feel as if I am cheating–cheating myself or cheating on my writing–I am not sure.

What I have come to realize is that I write every day. Now, I am not just talking about emails, lesson plans, student feedback, etc. although I guess that counts too along with text messages and food shopping lists and the kind of writing that gets me through the day.

I am talking about intentional writing: sitting down at the computer, drafting in my notebook, speaking into my phone, or rehearsing as I complete a mundane task. Some days I write professionally, some days I write for graduate school, and other days I write creatively. On a good day, I can accomplish two or all three of these areas. But, I beat myself up when I don’t add on to Defiance.

Thinking about my classroom practices has helped me to reflect and re-see: being a writer is not about what you write but about the very act of becoming a writer with a capital W.

During Self-Selected Writing–a time where students can choose and develop their own writing pieces–they create in many different genres. All genres, topics, and writing pieces are created equal. They are able to raise their voices and speak their truths without seeing one topic or genre as better than the other. This process begins the journey to becoming a Writer. In our workshop, we support each other through the process, eager to catch a glimpse into one another’s passions, heart, and soul.

Here are some student examples from this school year:

  • A poem that asks “What if?” and “What then?” to inspire and incite change
  • An interview of their grandma and mom’s experience with immigration to help us understand what they went through
  • A science fiction book that challenges us to consider how far we would go to save a distant galaxy and species
  • A fantasy short story in which the student used their culture as inspiration for the setting, character names, and story details
  • A book recommendation of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds with the inclusion of their grandfather’s words to share his experience and raise awareness
  • An article that raised awareness on mental illnesses and the importance of education to stop stigmas
  • A realistic short story which enabled the student to realize their dream of singing on Broadway
  • A personal essay that includes their family speaking in Telugu to help readers better understand their family

Self-Selected Writing is the greatest gift I can offer my students, and the greatest gift that they can share with me and their peers. Through these pieces, we teach each other and learn more about one another while enhancing our creative and critical thinking skills and our writing abilities. This writing and sharing fosters both empathy and empowerment.

The writing-reading workshop and Self-Selected Writing do not simply teach my students how to write but–more importantly–reminds them that they are already writers. They use language to share their stories, raise awareness, and create change.

Finding the reason to write and speaking your truths–That’s becoming a Writer with a capital W. It’s about using language to inspire others. Help others. Make a Difference. Evoke empathy. Discover who you are. Disrupt stereotypes. Question reality. Be the person you were born to be.

Regardless of topic, genre, or mode.

As I reflected on all of this, I realized something that I have always known for my students but couldn’t see for myself. I write every day for many purposes, in many genres, about different topics–sometimes professionally and sometimes creatively. Just as my students have the freedom to create their own writing pieces, I too have the freedom to decide what I write on a given day. Well, unless I have a deadline to meet.

I am not more of a writer when I am crafting journal articles, blog posts, parent emails, or a sci-fi story. I am always a Writer: committing ideas to written language. Composing to make my consciousness visible to me and for others.

Regardless of topic, genre, or mode.

I guess it’s that time . . . I’m going to post this and start drafting Defiance. I’ll remember my re-thinking the next time I decide to write a blog post instead of working on Defiance.

No longer will I feel like I am cheating on my sci-fi story.

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