The English Teacher

At Least Make It Personal…

Kathleen Kelly (that ‘beautiful pill’ from Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” ) contends that “whatever else anything is, it ought to begin with being personal…” 

I concur.

The young writers who show up in my classroom day after day don’t always realize that writing should, in fact, be personal too. Many of them (far too many, really) consider writing an academic activity merely. And a painful, useless one at that. Read these words from a reflection one of my students wrote last week:

“Writing [that] letter opened my heart to personal writing. Before these nine weeks, I did not write if it was not mandatory. After the letter, though, I started to enjoy writing. Writing on a personal level surprised me. Before this class, most of the papers I wrote were all impersonal papers with facts. I didn’t realize the creative side of writing. [That letter] let me express my perspective, and gave me a voice.”

YES! Isn’t that what nearly all of the written word ought to be doing? Expressing the individual voice? Giving substance to personal perspectives on the world, the day, the very life we live? Granted, the menu at McDonald’s isn’t very personal. And I suppose road signs lack ‘voice’. But the writing that changes us (for readers, always) ought to be personal. If it’s not, maybe you’re not doing it right.




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