I never saw myself as a writer when I was a middle school student. It took my becoming a teacher to become one and be seen as one. And even that wasn't such a slam dunk to accept.
Calling oneself a writer carries a responsibility that I used to perceive as arrogance. It wasn't arrogance that I felt, it was dread.
The dread of sucking at writing.
My kids see me as a writer, and I call them writers. I promote it. Little things help--I have written in the past about a frame I have hanging in my classroom where I display a piece of student writing every few days. Next to the frame I write "See your writing as a piece of art, because it is."
Recently, a couple of students doodling at the board began to write and rewrite that statement in their own handwriting with a faint, blue dry erase marker. This doesn't mean that they believe themselves to be writers, but it was interesting to see it as a part of their vocabulary.
I try to write something everyday someplace. YA author Kathi Appelt told me that some days she happily counts the shopping list as evidence of writing for that day. While humor resides within that statement, it comforted me. I did not have to sit at my novel every day, and blog every day, and record something in my writer's notebook, and sketch, and think about writing.
It is the classic image if writing isn't it? So many wads of paper tossed towards waste paper baskets. Our frustration at not being able to find the right words to express what is inside of us defined by the cruel humor of the paper ball.
All of our secrets are behind those creases and folds of the metaphorical ball inside us. Yet we continue to pound and scrunch page after page and often don't even look where we toss it.
Seeing myself as a writer has allowed me to unfold some of that paper ball of my fears, joys, insecurities, and dreams--and it has allowed me to retrace those once-buried moments with words.
It took being a 40 year-old adult to realize I was a writer because I was human and have my story. It is this point that has impacted my writing instruction the most.
I can see the dread in some of my students when asked to write--even those who like to write. The dread isn't the act of writing, the dread resides within how we choose to see ourselves. To that end, I use writing as a way to elevate the kids in their own eyes and to help them find and see their own humanity.
When the dread begins to fade, we can start to unfold our life's paper, and begin to retrace those things that matter most to us.
We can find the comfort in seeing ourselves as writers because that often leads to finding the comfort of who we are and who we can still become.