Tonight I taught a class on freelance travel writing. At the end of every class, I have students read out loud the articles they’re working on. The rest of us then comment and critique, cheer and support. It takes some courage for students to read their work out loud, sometimes for the very first time.
Tonight, a student was reading her article about a family trip canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. As she was reading, she began to cry. She got hold of herself and said, “Wow, where did that come from?”
I think it came from the experience of writing a story that meant a lot to her, reading it aloud to people, and having them respond. It came from the experience of “being heard.” It was a moving moment for me because I remember the first time this happened to me–the first time I ever read my work out loud to a class. Like me, she will probably remember that moment for a long time.
It brought home what makes writing, teaching, and interacting with other writers so valuable. Maybe we grass-roots writers play on a small stage. Maybe we’ll never be on the NY Times Best-seller List. Maybe we won’t even get published at all. But the sheer experience of writing down our stories and being heard is a moving one.
That’s the power of writing. The power of our stories. Most of the time, we live out our lives, and other people pay attention to themselves. While we’re talking, they’re busy thinking of the next thing they will say. It can feel like nobody really hears or understands. But when we write, when we express ourselves, put our feelings into words, and read aloud–for at least one short moment, we feel like someone is listening.
We are being heard.
Maybe that’s why we write. Maybe that’s what makes it all worthwhile.