Why I Write

Eliana Gayle-Schneider, 2015-2016 Rising Voices Fellow.

Two driving forces in my life are creativity and passion. These qualities have always gone hand in hand. As I have grown through the years, my love for writing and my passion for activism have blended into one tremendous, creative, passionate, one-act play.

I was raised to be an activist. While my friends went to the movies, I went to protests and knocked on doors to help get out the vote. As my picket sign and button collection grew, so did my desire to write. Poetry always fascinated me, but I decided I wanted my words to reach a larger audience. So what’s a ten-year old with a voice, a stage, a pen, and a mind to do but become a playwright?

In 2010 I began taking writing workshops at WritopiaLab NYC. There, I began my playwriting journey. My first play explored modern concepts of homophobia, a very real part of my family life. I wrestled with questions concerning homophobia throughout my entire life; such as: Why is it bad to be different or to come from a different kind of family? My play writing became the vehicle through which I grappled with these very important questions.

I was proud to have my work produced in WritopiaLab’s Best Playwrights Festival. From meeting with the director, to observing rehearsals, the entire process was both amazing and surreal...and also empowering. Seeing my words played out on stage was a very concrete manifestation of the power of my voice–both as an activist and as a writer.

Another one of my more recent plays, about mental illness and borderline personality disorder, was also selected to be produced in the Bestival! Having the opportunity to sit in the audience and experience my work being performed has given me a completely new perspective on my writing. It has also been my hope that bringing these important issues to the stage would raise awareness in my community, and help us to be courageous and bold, and to make change.

I have now come full circle and am currently in my second year as an intern at WritopiaLab NYC, working with young writers on honing their own skills. But my love for theater and writing extends far beyond productions, honors or awards–it lies in empowerment, and in my ability to reach others through my work.

When I was in 9th grade, I had a growing concern about the level of derogatory, homophobic and ableist language being used in my high school halls. I brought this issue to my dean, and to my entire school because I was determined to help raise awareness and change the school culture. I am one who does what it takes to open people's eyes, ears, and hearts–both onstage and off.

Seeing my first play produced served as a seed from which my inner activist sprouted. This experience helped me to connect with my core beliefs in a way that I realized was more powerful than attending a protest rally. As one of my personal Jewish activist mentors, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, noted, “when I marched in Selma (in protest),  my feet were praying.”  However, unlike Rabbi Heschel, my passion manifests itself not by marching from Selma to Montgomery, but through the power of the written word.

Participating in Rising Voices has been an invaluable experience, allowing me to sharpen my feminist voice, see new connections between issues, hone my critical thinking, and share thoughts with other inspiring peers and friends who write! Blogging through RVF has expanded my reach; allowing my voice to be heard far beyond where I’d ever imagine my words would travel.  Why do I write? I write so that I can express my ideas, comment on our world and in some small way, and help to raise consciousness and contribute to change.

With thanks to Rabbi Heschel, who I think would understand…when I write, I pray with my pen. 

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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How to cite this page

Gayle-Schneider, Eliana. "Why I Write." 14 June 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on February 23, 2024) <http://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/why-i-write>.