There are culture wars that you encounter before you even know that they actually exist.
There has never been a time in my life when I considered myself to be a writer. I have been a person who writes out of necessity, a person who has taken a seminar( in which speaking is the primary mode of communication) who then has forced herself to write a paper because she had to--not necessarily because she wanted to write one.
These attitudes about writing and communication, I think, are shaped early on. At times, these things are influenced by parents and other family members, but more often by the people with whom one spends a great deal of time.
A high school teacher.
During my formative years, I was told quite simply, "You're not a writer. You're not meant to be one."
She sat in her corner office--or at least I think that it was in the corner--and she said this to me in an oh so matter of fact tone.
There had been a unit on poetry. I was fourteen and had been asked to write a poem.
I had nothing to give: No experiences, no losses, no gains, or at the very least I hadn't viewed them as such at the time. I couldn't give her what she wanted--the award winning angst filled poetry of a supposedly gifted freshman in high school.
I relied on the fact that I knew I could write an essay. Or so I thought.
When the time came for me to conceive of my first essay on that Daphne Du Marier book Rebecca (or was it something more standard like Romeo and Juliet?), I wrote and wrote. I thought. I rewrote. I thought again. I needed to prove that I could at least do that task.
If I couldn't be one of the prophetesses of the word, I could be a handmaiden.
She said it again. "You are not a writer."
She called my mother in to talk about how much help I was getting at home. That it was impossible that I could have written an essay like that at fourteen. That surely, surely, surely someone else was helping me. She implied that I was incapable of this work.
My mother, of course, was offended, but polite.
I hadn't shown my essay to anyone. I had a friend whose mother would type and edit her essays, and not a malicious word was said.
"Of course she did well on this essay. She's a writer."
I went home and cried.
I had always been a good student. I wasn't used to anyone implying that I could be anything other than a good student. I knew that I didn't spend my time writing poetry or plays or stories, but I read them.
I never wrote, mainly because I could never write as well as the people whose words I loved to read.
I never felt like I had stories. I didn't have the boundless imagination of the one girl who had written a novel by the time we were in tenth grade. I felt like I could have had something in me, but it wasn't allowed to sit dormant for a while.
In that place, you were often placed into a box, a womb, catacomb. Whatever. It's no different in most schools.
Secretly, I hoped for the invitation to the "writer's workshop."
It never came.
It was the possibility of writing that had been taken from me. I was hardly rebellious then. More timid than I am now.
I was fourteen, so I let it go.
Now I have stories. I'm now trying to figure out how to write them. How to tell them.
And I have never told any of my students that they aren't writers.
One never knows what will happen.