At my grandmother’s funeral, my uncle read a letter my from my grandfather had written to my grandmother. The letter took place circa 1947, early in their marriage. At that time, my mom was a couple of weeks old, and my Grandma was traveling from Boston to Cincinnati for a few days to introduce the new baby to her parents. For the first time in their marriage, my grandma was leaving my grandfather to his own devices. My Grandpa, who was used to my Grandma bossing him around, described his newly found solitude. Specific lines helped paint a picture for the audience. For instance, words such as, “Now I guess I can shave before I have my breakfast,” allowed the audience to infer that my Grandma ran a tight ship, and typically he was expected to follow her dictated schedule. On the other hand, “Oh, how I miss you so!” indicated just how deeply my Grandpa cared for my Grandma, and even though she was out of town for less than a week, he truly felt her absence.
This heartfelt letter elicited laughter and tears from family and friends attending the funeral. It especially hit home for those who knew my grandparents well. My Grandma was boss. My Grandpa simply adored her and did everything she asked. Those near and dear to my Grandpa also knew he was a shy person, but if they didn’t know before, they could now see that he was able to express immaculately on paper what he often had a difficult time expressing in words. Grandpa’s penmanship was atrocious, and in fact, although he was a very smart man, he stayed back in kindergarten for poor handwriting. I’m willing to bet the spelling in that letter was borderline illegible. Yet, that crumpled piece of paper is an heirloom, a relic.
I am telling this story because I want to emphasize my belief that writing is so much more than commas, clauses, thesauruses, and penmanship. It is more than organizing topics, perfecting thesis statements, and elaborating on arguments. Those, of course, all have a sound place in writing. More importantly, however, writing is heart. It is voice. It is creating. We write to express ideas and bring stories to life. I choose to teach writing, not so much because I enjoy sentence structure, but because I like to hear stories and to witness people become better communicators. It makes me happy to watch people pursue and then reach their goals, and oftentimes part of the path to achievement is written expression.
Writing, as in the case of my Grandpa, is a powerful tool to express oneself and process one’s thoughts. One rainy afternoon when I was six my mother brought me home a notebook with a Charlie Brown and Snoopy cover. She told me I seemed mad at my little sister and should write down my thoughts instead of pulling her hair. I did what she said and then continued to try to write in it every day. Mostly I wrote about my day (get up, go to school, come home), but after some time, I began to make up characters and stories. I loved having the space for that.
A few years later, in the sixth grade, I wrote letters with huge handwriting in a diary to a boy I had a huge crush on. I never sent the letters, but since I was too shy to talk with him in person and never did get the guts to do so, I was able to get my thoughts out of my head and onto paper.
Years later, in college, a friend gave me a blank journal as a birthday present. I had no ideas what to do with it at first. Then a bit down the road, I was having one of those college bad days, and I just started writing in the blank book. I described stress over exams, angst about body image, and the irritation I had towards my roommate. By the time I graduated from college, I had a stack of filled journals, and by the time I left my twenties I had a crateful. I never necessarily read them again, but over time writing has continuously be a tool to help me heal.
Despite the tool that writing is, many struggle with the written language. I have numerous students many who are expected to communicate through writing assignments but are challenged with getting thoughts onto paper. The reasons vary from language barriers to a need for more education on writing skills, to a lack of confidence. Still others simply do not know where to start.
It is very important to me that Your Writing Boutique is an interactive and non-judgmental space that allows you to grow as a writer and as a person at whatever stage of writing you are at and whatever type of writing you do.
Talk with me. Was there a time that writing has helped you? When has it been frustrating? What do you want to know? Where are you at on your writing journey?
I hope that you will hop on here often. Let me know why you want to write and how we can help guide you. That is what this is all about.