Find Your Voice, Then Share It
A million thoughts are fighting each other in my brain. I feel my cheeks heat up with frustration and I scrunch up my nose to prevent tears from seeping out and running down my face. I sit down in a library chair and open my computer. I begin to type a text message to our Rising Voices group chat:
“This STUPID kid in my English class…” I pound the backspace key. “This kid named Arthur* in my English class said the most obnoxious thing...” My finger attacks the backspace again. “He goes: ‘Is that all you guys do? Complain about every little thing?’ and I say: ‘who are you talking about?’ and he says: ‘feminists.’ Are you kidding me?! Who does he think he is!?!” I look up from my screen and realize that my angry typing is so loud that I’m getting stares. I take a deep breath and calmly backspace my drafted text message to our group chat.
I begin to write more articulately. Though I’m only typing a text message, I want every word to back up my side of the story, justifying my reaction to my friends. But as I write, the jumbled thoughts in my head iron themselves out; I begin to understand where my peer was coming from when he made his obnoxious comment. I still think I’m right—feminists most certainly do not just go around complaining about everything— but in the context of a heated class discussion, I come to see how he didn’t mean any harm. As my fingers flow across the keyboard, my train of thought translates into the text, and I’m finally able to send it. But when I do, it’s not a long, angsty rant, but rather a somewhat comprehensive reflection on the experience I just had, written in texting shorthand of course.
I think of that day often when I doubt myself or start to forget why I love writing. Even though I was only writing a text message in this case, the act of writing is what helped me organize and articulate my thoughts, and come to a more mature conclusion than I originally started with. Indeed, my favorite writing moments come when I sit down to write one thing and end up with a piece that has gone in a totally different direction.
When I was the Opinions Editor for my school newspaper, I often used this approach when writing articles. I specialized in writing about education and took on pieces analyzing my high school’s policies and practices on everything from mental health education to teaching about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I gathered interviews and did research, but usually when I began to write, I didn’t have a clear-cut argument. I would occasionally even write one section detailing the arguments for the side I’d taken and another section for the other side, and then end up switching my initial opinion in the process. It wasn’t that I was indecisive or wishy-washy on my stance, but rather that the process of putting pen to paper and arguing both sides actually helped me figure out what I truly believed. Forming strong opinions is easier said than done, and for me, the exercise of writing helps me get there.
The other thing that I valued about working for the Opinions section of the newspaper was the way it taught me to share my voice. While writing about sex-ed and AP classes might seem small or trivial to some, I was incredibly passionate about what I was writing. And although my school newspaper certainly didn’t have off-the-charts readership, every time a teacher or peer struck up a discussion about one of my articles, I knew I’d made an impact, however small. I may not have changed any school policies single-handedly, but at least I got some people thinking.
I used to think that before sitting down to write I had to know exactly what I was going to say. I was tentative to begin typing anything that didn’t follow the map I’d outlined in my head because I was scared to lose myself or confuse my argument. I saw writing as the generation of an end product, not as a means of discovery. But in time, perhaps out of sheer necessity, my viewpoint evolved; I began to use writing as a tool to find my voice and to share it. I am incredibly thankful for that mental shift, and I encourage everyone to use writing in this way. Harness the process, and don’t be scared if you don’t feel like you’re on solid ground at the beginning—it’ll only make you stronger in the end. I can’t wait to read what you have to say!
*Name was changed to maintain privacy
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.
How to cite this page
Minsk, Shira. "Find Your Voice, Then Share It ." 26 June 2019. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 2, 2020) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/find-your-voice-then-share-it>.