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Opening yourself up to the audience

Laker Notes

ZHANGEvery new year always comes with a wide array of fresh, exciting events. Now that 2015 has finally arrived, mine look something like this: the prospect of finals, the impending results of my college applications and, especially if I want to be honest, my failed attempts at writing New Year’s resolutions.

Most of those resolutions remain in the abstract, ranging from “be happy more often” to “possibly procrastinate less on my homework, even though as a soon-to-be second-semester senior I should be able to do so” to “go outside more and stay away from the Internet from time to time.”

Thinking too hard about these resolutions makes me cringe a little, because I realize that maybe I’ve trusted myself with far too much responsibility.

Writing them down is a good start, at least.

One other item on my list is just that: This year, I plan on doing more honest-to-goodness writing, because I find that sometimes I tend to overlook the subtle power that lies in the simple act of arranging letters on a page. Writing is an exercise that’s nothing more than placing black ink on white paper (or white ink on black paper, depending on how hipster I want to be), but at the same time it is possibly the best reflection of who I was in the past and who I want to be in the future and who I think I am right now.

The catch, however, is that I need to be honest and unabashed — no deception or running away allowed. At the risk of sounding cocky, I’ll say this: Over the years, I’ve read my fair share of bad writing, and yet I also know that the people who wrote those bad pieces of literature aren’t bad people by any standard. Their writing only seems inauthentic because they don’t bleed onto the page and imbue their words with whatever happiness and passion and sadness and pain they feel.

Because isn’t writing all about opening yourself up to the audience? It’s a scary concept, sure — the idea that I’m out there, my thoughts and emotions all laid bare right in front of whoever reads what I write. But that relationship between an author and a reader doesn’t have to be hostile, not by any stretch of the imagination. If I can reach out my hand to the people on the other side of the page — “here, have a piece of my heart, take it and look at it and make what you will out of it” — chances are that they will take that hand and hold it in their own and connect to who I am beyond just the words and phrases and paragraphs.

Don’t be scared, don’t be shy, don’t hesitate. Practice often. Live a little, love yourself a little more and explore the dark parts of your heart to find things to write about. The world spins around us, and I have never once doubted that all of us — you, me, your English teacher, your parents, your spouse — will be able to find inspiration in even the smallest of things if only we look hard enough.

And so I write. I do it wherever I can — on pages of notebook paper when I’m dozing off in class, on old napkins when I have a sudden thought and I want to jot it down, on the pixelated screen of my laggy laptop when my fingers fly across the keyboard.

Writing isn’t hard at all, not when I realize that I’m OK with the imperfections in myself and in the world and in the people around me, and that I’m okay with sharing those beautiful flaws with other people.

Lake Oswego High School senior Ada Zhang is a regular columnist for The Review, and she can be reached at education@lakeoswegoreview.com.


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