why i write

Melanie Kissinger

           My world is a web of bedtime stories and English class revelations and essays written late into the night, of well-worn novels lining my bookshelves, of sticky notes haphazardly stuck to my bedside table filled with middle-of-the-night scribblings, and of the sound of my fingers striking my computer keyboard. Literature, storytelling, writing: all are the elements of my world. All are woven into the core of my identity.

           When I was younger, I was was extremely reluctant to face the impending transition from the naive little girl that I was to the empowered woman whom I aspired to be. I found that books, from the likes of Ella Enchanted to Sense and Sensibility, allowed me to pretend that I was a brave, self-assured heroine with indomitable strength of character. In books, I became confident. I became tenacious. The reality of my cowardly seventh grade self could be cast aside. Books were a reprieve from the mostly mundane, occasionally daunting parts of my life; they were the foundation of my ambitions and dreams for the future. I aspire to craft these lands of heroism and fearlessness -- to interweave tales of love with those of hardship.

          The sound of the delete key, held down by my ring finger as I watch the cursor move swiftly across my computer screen, has become my greatest enemy. The self-doubt that floods through me as I attempt to translate my voice into ink-on-paper controls me too often and subsides infrequently, but that is the risk that comes with writing. The spoken word is retractable; it can be denied, forgotten, or apologized for; it can be whispered softly so that no one else hears it. The written word, once submitted to a teacher or published on a website or simply left printed but crumpled in my backpack, is indelible, certain, unchangeable.

          Writing has enabled me to identify my most authentic self while destroying my demons. It is my purest form of self-expression; it’s the ability to make my voice heard when the spoken word is too fleeting, too straightforward, too limiting. My writing has become the expression of my soul, which I imagine to be mostly composed of raindrops on my windowsill and the sound of horse hooves on concrete and the tear-stained pages of my favorite novels. My writing is a poem describing my grandmother’s laugh, or an essay discussing standards for women as depicted in Paradise Lost, or the opening line of a short story, hastily scrawled into the margins of my Calculus notebook.

           When I am writing, I am blissfully, inexplicably, undoubtedly sure of myself.

Despite the social pressures around me to conform to trends and norms and expectations, and despite my community’s biases about the essentiality of sameness, and despite my seventeen-year-old insecurities, and despite being-a-writer-isn’t-cool-in-high-school and STEM-students-make-more-money and you’re-too-young-to-really-know-what-you-want -- I will write and write and write until it finally feels like I have said and felt and been enough (never). I will construe incongruous thoughts into articulate paragraphs (always). I will convince another little girl that all she needs to support her crumpled shoulders is a notebook and a ballpoint pen (someday).