Finding Your Identity in Writing

Something that always used to stick out to me was the idea ‘write what you know’. There were multiple instances in this chapter that made me reflect on that statement and what it means to me and my writing journey. Firstly, I enjoyed the idea that your identity as a writer is shaped by what you know, as well as by the rhetorical situation that you are writing for. As stated in section 3.0, ideologies are formed from outside factors (I think of this like culture) and therefore, will be ever-present in your writing– echoing earlier concepts about writing being a social act. Lunsford also briefly speaks to this in concept in 3.3. Additionally, 3.2 mentioned a concept that I latched onto— the idea that identity in writing is inherently unique because of the combinations of past experiences, knowledge, and conversations that make up someone’s ideology and perspective. Whenever I think of identity, I remember a course I took my sophomore year of college. The professor made it clear to the class on the first day that everyone’s name is important because it adds to their identity. We then made maps of our identity that (on a surface level) made each of us think about how we define ourselves and the qualities and events that helped shape us. It is when students enact this inner creativity that voice is found, and as mentioned in the text, identity (and voice) can vary depending on the situation. It is in finding your identity that you can discover (through writing, maybe) what your beliefs are. Some authors play heavily into their identity with political or social stances in their work. Toni Morrison, a wonderful example of owning your identity in your writing said: 

“Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.” 

Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993

Toni Morrison was incredibly well-loved because she spoke not only her truth, but other’s truths, and was undeniably strong in her identity.

When I read this quote, I think back to the idea of ‘writing what you know’—a concept I became familiar with in regards to screenplays and scriptwriting. You don’t have to tell the truth, but you can show the truth, your truth, through a story. This is were the creativity of writing comes into play— molding your ideas, identity, morals, and story to form a writing that tells a truth. Maybe it isn’t the whole truth, or your truth, but it can be a truth. It might be that this truth you stumble upon is a result of your identity (or self) taking a different form to fit the rhetorical needs of the task at hand. Think of George Lucas, who was a small town boy with big dreams, turning his experiences and identity into a character to create Luke Skywalker and Star Wars! It isn’t a real story, but at its core, it tells a real truth.

All this to say– write what you know. Write from the bottom of your identity.

Works Cited:

  • Adler-Kassner, Linda, and Elizabeth A. Wardle. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. Classroom ed., Utah State University Press, 2016.

3 Replies to “Finding Your Identity in Writing”

  1. “The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.” -Anne Lamott

    Your thoughts about truth reminded me of the above quote. I agree that the truth doesn’t have to be a literal truth as long as it’s genuine and true to the writer.

  2. Lauren, I love that you tied in the different kinds and degrees of truth into your post, although I think it would be cool if, as a companion to this post, you talked about what the components of one’s identity are. What do you consider the key components of your identity, and how do you reflect that in your writing? Should writing reveal or challenge one’s identity? Looking forward to seeing what you write next week!

  3. Lauren, writing is not and can never really be made into an exact science. The truths we speak through this expression and the personalities we bring to life will always be relative, although I absolutely love the examples you give in the form of Toni Morrison and George Lucas. This is an important lesson in the teaching of writing. You express it well and I can easily see how you might incorporate this into one of your lessons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *