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I write because it keeps me sane: A reflection on finding my voice through writing

| Monday, October 4, 2021

“The only thing I have to offer is my voice.”

I often say this in the context of worship groups I am a part of where everyone seems to be able to play three instruments, read music and sing all the while. Literally the only thing I can offer are my measly vocal chords.

New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Woodson was the keynote speaker at Saint Mary’s Christian Culture Lecture this past Thursday. Her reflections on her experiences as an author the last 30 plus years and they made me reflect on my time as an amateur writer the past thirteen years — it’s nothing in comparison to Woodson’s expertise, but seven year old me has certainly made some progress.

As she spoke about what inspires her to write — her family, her life experiences and her own sanity were among the top motivators — I thought about what inspires me. It brought me back the time our MacBook sat in its own special room and I would sit, eyes wide with excitement as my small nine-year-old hands would fly across the keyboard. I remember the first “novel” I attempted. It was something about a princess who met a witch in the woods and for some reason all they ate were granola bars. It made no sense, but it was a start. I think I never gave it an ending for two reasons. One, because I had never had any formal experience on how to even finish a novel (not that formal experience is needed, but it helps), but two, because neither of my characters were me. Neither of my characters were based on anything but fiction.

I envy writers who are able to create marvelous fantasies in their minds — think JK Rowling or Rick Riordan. I am simply unable to write pure fiction. Woodson shared a similar experience in that she explained all of her characters had a little bit of her in them. I wondered if every award-winning author felt the same way. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to ask Rowling or Riordan if this rings true for them as well, but I can’t help but feel that it might. I know at least for me, writing from my life works out much better than from something I have never experienced.

I thought about what does inspire me, though. If it’s not witches, princesses and granola bars, then what does motivate me to sit down in front of my computer now and write about writing? I thought about the times I would be scared to tell my parents something, especially if I got in trouble, and instead of saying it to them, I would write it down on paper in the form of a letter.

Writing has been able to give a voice to words I cannot say out loud. Woodson stressed encouraging youth writing and youth creativity. If my parents had never encouraged me to keep writing, to keep sharing those words I couldn’t find the courage to say out loud, I wonder what would’ve happened.

Now, I write because I have the privilege to do so. I write because it’s important. I write because words matter. I write because I don’t have a choice. If we as a society don’t write, don’t record, we will have no history, no remembrance. I encourage you to write so that you can find your voice too, so that you can find the courage to share your truth with the world.

You can contact Lexi at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Lexi Kilcoin

Lexi is an aspiring journalist studying Creative Writing and Religious Studies at Saint Mary's College. She loves all things The Office and is sure to start a conversation with anyone she meets.

Contact Lexi