This week, I have the opportunity to sit on a panel of people for whom writing is an important aspect of their work – to talk to students about what writing means in the context of our everyday work. The strange thing is that writing is not anywhere on my job description, yet it has become a very important part of how I do my job.
I became involved in the panel when one day, the convener was telling me about the upcoming project, and I found myself in an almost out-of-body experience telling her I’d be glad to sit on the panel if she needed participants. There were some crickets chirping… mostly because no one on my campus would probably think of me as a writer… I’m an instructional designer and an instructor of college reading. I help faculty with teaching, learning, and technology… but writing? What?!
The crazy thing (to me anyway) was that normally, if I hear crickets, I would retreat.. “Bad idea.. dumb idea…just forget it… what was I thinking… but if you need anyone (slinking away), I’d be happy to help (close the door behind you).” My colleague was so kind and just asked a few questions and in a few days, she emailed and asked if I would sit on the panel!
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I actually sought out the convener and asked if I could participate. Something had changed in how I think about myself in relation to writing. As I was asking her initially if she needed participants, I heard the voice inside my head saying, “What are you doing?! You aren’t a writer…you’re a person who writes… Yet, in spite of my own objections and surprise, I found myself vehemently making the case for myself. “I write a newsletter on teaching & learning; I keep a professional blog about current projects; I write journal articles, this personal blog, and I spend a lot of time writing emails to help people with teaching issues.” I think something inside of me wanted to claim that title, which is why I was the one reaching out and asserting myself. Up until now, I have thought of myself more as a “person who writes” – that description doesn’t come with as much pressure somehow… If I whisper it, maybe they’ll let me continue to do it without anyone saying, “Hey, YOU… put that pen down… You’re not a writer!”
So as I think about what I’ll say during the panel when asked what I write and why I write, I’d like to say that I write to document accomplishments, and I write to provide support, but mostly, I write to discover meaning – about my experiences and those of others. There is something incredible about getting to the moment of insight through the writing process – of feeling that there is something there, just under the surface that isn’t fully experienced, understood, or felt and then all of a sudden, the curtain opens, and there is this moment of clarity. “Oh, I SEE!”
In the end, am I a writer, or a person who writes? One seems to be more about identity and the other about a tool which is used for a particular purpose. At this moment, I think something inside of me is moving towards embracing the former. Notice I did not write it (I am a writer! Shhhhh). I guess I’ll need to write more about this to get to the bottom of it!