Find the magic

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Samantha DeForest

“I hate writing.”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard one of my favorite pastimes criticized, ridiculed and condemned.

“I’m just really bad at it.” “I don’t know all the grammar rules.”

As a writing tutor, I understand how frustrating it can be when the thoughts in your head get scrambled the second you try to put them on paper. As a student, I know how difficult it is to write a paper on a subject that’s even less interesting to you than watching paint dry. As an English major at a liberal arts school, I know how difficult it can be to write a five page paper or a five line poem.

As Sam (my plain old self, minus all the labels), I love writing.

I understand pretty much all of the reasons why writing frustrates people; what I don’t understand is why no one seems to recognize how important of a skill writing really is.

People who claim to hate writing because they’re bad writers are probably the most challenging group to sway, but they’re able to convey their ideas intelligently and coherently through conversation. Writing is a conversation between writer and reader, so if you can explain something to someone verbally, you have the power to explain it orthographically.

I’ve found that most people who hate writing also hate reading, which makes me incredibly sad. My passion for reading stems from pretty much every maternal figure in my life.

My mom always humored me when I chose to browse the bookstore at the mall for an hour instead of looking at the sneakers we originally went out to find; my Nana brought me with her on her weekly trips to the library and kept records of the hundreds of books she read; my Grandma listened to books on tape—yeah, they still make them, but on CDs now—whenever she made the five hour drive from New York to visit.

Every year, my godmother gave me a book as part of my Christmas present, and it’s a tradition I hope to continue with my own (adopted) nieces and nephews someday. I still have those books with inscriptions in her perfect first-grade-teacher penmanship.

As early as Junie B. Jones, Amber Brown and the Boxcar children, I was hooked. Reading these stories about other people’s lives allowed me to imagine myself in a different life, transported to another world through the author’s words.

When I got older, my appetite for novels grew even more ravenous. In middle school, I would ride my bike to the library at least twice a week during the summer, weighed down by a backpack full of books.

To this day, I still understand the concept of maxing out a credit card because I used to max out my library card; the librarians would force me to choose which adventures would come home with me and which ones have to wait until my next trip down the hill.

Most parents have to tell their kids to turn off the TV and go play outside; my parents told me to go outside, but I’d bring my book and find a spot in the shade or on a float in the pool. Once I realized that I could read words on a page and experience something entirely new, I was addicted. Every new story was a new adventure, something I had never experienced before.

After watching me devour book after book, my grandfather gave me a blank book and told me to write a story of my own; at eight years old, nothing I wrote was as good as what Maurice Sendak, Judy Blume, Paula Danziger and Carolyn Keene wrote. So now, I stick to journaling. There’s something inexplicably cathartic about putting pen to paper and letting my thought and feelings escape from inside my head.

Reading all those books taught me the magic of the written word. Without leaving the comfort of home, I could travel the world, explore the depths of the ocean, rocket into outer space, understand what life is like with siblings and even experience magical universes.

J.K. Rowling is actually magical in real life because she was able to create an entire world with its own languages, geography, culture, names, food, wardrobe, sports, schools and literary depth beyond comprehension. She did the impossible.

My generation grew up with her characters, and we watched them grow up in the film adaptations. Her characters feel like real people, and I’m a huge nerd for admitting this, but they even felt like friends sometimes.

J.K. Rowling is the reason I became an English major; I thought that if I couldn’t write, I could study the greats and go into publishing, discover the next iconic author and give them the ability to share their words and influence a generation like Harry Potter influenced mine.

I still carry a torch for publishing somewhere deep down, and even though my actual job is going to have nothing to do with it, I still get to write.

My fellow readers, I’m hoping one of you has the same romanticized notion about publishing and gives the next literary great a chance.

Now that I’ve rambled on about reading and writing, I’ll try to bring it full-circle. To the people who hate writing, please remember the magic of all those books you were forced to read for school and secretly loved. Try to find that peace after writing about a tough day, getting it all down on paper.

Everyone always says that you need to find your voice. I’m telling you to take it one step further and learn how to share that voice through writing.

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