From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.
George Orwell wrote these words in 1946, as part of an essay entitled ‘Why I Write.’ Some people imagine themselves as writers from childhood onwards; others grow into the role, without fanfare or deliberation. Everyone, for instance, becomes a writer in secondary school – through term papers, theses, book reports and essays. I sometimes wonder what became of the stories I would write late at night for my first creative writing class; like so many of my college papers, they probably disappeared at the end of the semester, orphaned on the trash pile that would follow my moves into new apartments.
Orwell lists four different reasons why people write: egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, the desire to store things up for the use of posterity, and ‘political’ reasons (in the widest sense). My own writing owes something to each of these. I like to see my thoughts congeal in print; I am inspired by art to create my own work; I enjoy thinking that my offspring might someday read my writing, and I write short email-friendly pieces to change the opinions of the people closest to me.
The children I teach could easily wait a decade before making a habit of putting pen to paper and still be considered writers from a very young age. Like me, they will probably partake of all of the above when they start to scribble on their own – to record a moment of visual poetry, have a grandmother remember them on Mother’s Day, or even change the world. As long as the writer writes, however, he is a writer; no identity or public image need accompany the act. I hope my students remember this when the need to write for school recedes but the need for writing remains.
posted by Julian Martinez, Writers in the Schools