Dear Future Writers,
Writing is hard, really hard. Writing could be an emotional outlet, a hobby, a passion, or you may be writing for a class assignment because you have to; but in any sense of the word, writing is difficult and can be very frustrating. Our styles and techniques we use are different amongst all writers, ideas can be stolen (especially when you're sharing your thoughts online), criticisms can be hard to accept (especially as a young writer). Opening yourself to be vulnerable to a world of people that do not necessarily understand you and your mind can be petrifying. Or maybe you love writing – maybe writing is the one thing you know, the one thing that you're best at; you may not be afraid of being vulnerable, you may love receiving critiques, you may be completely comfortable and unwavering in your style and technique – and if you are, I applaud you, because I didn't reach that point in my own writing until a year ago.
We, as authors, have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to our audience – whomever the audience may be – to tell a story, a message, to help our audience understand the purpose and reason behind why we write. With that, we are what rhetoricians call a "literacy sponsor" (Deborah Brandt's theory – I'll explain soon) – in other words, we are a character in someone's narrative (Jim Corder's theory – I'll explain that, too) that influences their life and their literacy in one way, shape or form. We make an impact, whether they read our story and fall in love with a character and have an aspiration to follow their footsteps, whether they read an article and become inspired to change their own behavior, or whether they read a poem and have a stanza or line call to their heart and change the way they think. We affect their lives.
Personally, I don't take that responsibility lightly. Somewhere, someone is going to read my story, my novel, and it is going to impact his or her life. Whether I like it or not, it is going to have an impact on the way they think, the way they speak, and the way they behave – even if they don't notice it, themselves – because that's what writing does, writing speaks to you in a way that speaking or acting may not. Our messages as writers may strike a nerve or point out a flaw that a character has that a reader may not like within themselves. Our stories may make readers fall in love or hate a character - but inevitably, our writing makes the audience feel something.
Deborah Brandt and Jim Corder explain that in their theories. Brandt's theory and idea is that "literacy sponsors", which she defines as "any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy – and gain advantage by it in some way" (166), are going to be the first to make an impact on a young person's life. Sponsors shape the way their sponsored individual thinks, reads, interprets the world around them – because, after all, they are teaching them how to perceive every literary action that occurs with them and to them. We, as writers, are a literacy sponsor. (Quite literally, we are writers, which is using our literacy to impact another individual's literacy in our story's message). We don't necessarily know how an audience will interpret our message, but we hope that whatever message we want the audience to understand is going to be properly translated. It may not always happen, but in any sort, we are creating an impact on their literacy and their growth.
Continuing with Brandt's theory, Jim Corder writes about our impact and our role in our own narratives; we shape our narratives as we are in our own narratives. Corder explains, "Whether consciously or not, we always station ourselves somewhere in our narratives when we use language. This means that invention always occurs. The process of invention may occur in a conscious, deliberate way, but it will occur, even if at some subterranean level." (17). By using this idea that we are inventing a narrative in our language, we could interpret that as a similar concept to how we create a narrative in our own writing. We use language and stories and characters (much like how our lives are) to influence how we think, how we speak, and how we act – which is essentially what is subconsciously (or consciously) happening as we write and create a message to send to our audience and readers. We, in some way, are hoping that their lives will be impacted by our narrative, our story that we are sharing will mean something, the message that we want the audience to interpret will be made part of their own life.
Sure, by telling you about Corder and Brandt you can understand a bit to how you have an impact as a writer and a storyteller, and how your literacy has been shaped by your narrative as a character in your life, but how could you relate to me? Honestly, I would be asking myself the same question. Understanding how my role as an author has had an impact on an individual's life as explained by rhetoricians could be comprehended by any high school or college student, a professional writer, an editor, anyone, but truly relating to how an author is a sponsor and an influence on your own literacy and narrative may take a description and story for further understanding.
Going to college to become an editor and an author hadn't been my original idea. Originally, I wanted to be a veterinarian, then a forensic scientist (crime show television impacted my idea of my future way too much), then a dance teacher (being a dancer and teaching dance meant a lot to me, and really helped me through my anxiety as a teenager), then after many hours of writing for my blog that had been my passion for five years, writing and editing became my final decision. However, it wasn't only my blog that influenced me. Junior and Senior year, I had incredible English teachers. Out of every class I had taken in my four years of high school, I will always remember theirs the most, their lessons and the stories and novels I read (Scarlet Letter ruined my brain, however), their suggestions and critiques that put my best interest first. Having a teacher believe that you could make an impact as an author when becoming a writer is so difficult inspired me so much – and to this day, I remember their kind words of encouragement. Mrs. El and Miss Skinner are my favorite literacy sponsors of mine, even if they have never known it.
Sponsors in my life hadn't always been teachers, however. Jennifer Niven, the author of All the Bright Places, wrote my favorite novel of all time. Written about her own love story, she inspired me to write about something that wasn't spoken about enough in young adult literature: mental health. Her story drew close to my heart and changed the way the world around me appeared. She wrote, "Sorry wastes time. You have to live your life like you'll never be sorry. It's easier just to do the right things from the start so there's nothing to apologize for." (132). Her words had never hit closer to home. By reading that paragraph, that one quote, my entire life changed. She had become the most important literacy sponsor in my life, and to this day, is the reason that my degree (major and minor) has started to come to a close and my graduation is sooner than later.
Brandt and Corder were right; our literacy sponsors shape our narrative, change how we see the world, impact, and influence how we, as writers, write and create our own stories. We, as an author of our own narratives, have started impacting lives around the world. We write to change the minds of young readers, we write to make a difference, we write to make the world make sense. We all write for different reasons. We write because we need to, we write because we want to, we write because we do not know any different, but no matter what, we are making an impact – we are making a change.
Dear Future Writers,
Congratulations on changing the world.