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November 2, 2003


by S. E. Chambers, associate editor

"Vivant, j'agis et je réagis en masse....
Mort, j'agis et je réagis en molécules....
Naître, vivre et passer, c'est changer de forme."

("Alive, I act and react as a mass....
Dead, I act and react in molecules....
To be born, to live and to die is to change form."
—English translation by Anita Brookner)

Just as we can change form, so can our writing. When we first began to write, our letters were cramped and our words were crude. The sentences were very simple. We tried to communicate the best that we could using subject followed by verb. Our language was filled with gestures and facial expressions as we tried to tell our mom the fantastic dream we had with the scary sharks and pretty flowers. Slowly our sentences became more and more complex as we learned new words and expressions. Soon enough, we were able to write the full story of our imaginary fantastic day on the moon or on a shooting star. Then we began to become philosophers in our own right, analyzing why some cried loudly and others silently. My teachers would ask me to write a daily journal starting with a topic of the day, such as, What does Halloween mean to you? or Why do you celebrate the New Year?

I remember a particular moment that stood out from all the other reflective or critical exercises. It was when my sixth grade grammar teacher asked me to write what the word "home" meant to me. Then it meant to me the place where I lived. The place were all my belongings and pets were. It was the place I would go to after school to do my homework while I waited for my mother to come from work. Then it became the place where I felt safe and things were consistent. My home was the library during my high school years. Now, after twelve years of confronting this issue of home, especially while living at college, I was able to give it more thought. I came to the realization that home is everywhere because it is within me. I can make a hotel room my home because it is essentially where I return to at the end of the day or I can say that when I am contemplative and at ease on a bench watching the ducks in the lake that I am at home with myself. I do not have all my possessions, just my thoughts and my senses to claim. Over time, just as I have changed in form—child to adult—so has my writing about home changed form, and my writing about everything.

Writing is a living form. It needs to be nurtured and given many avenues to spread its roots. Some areas of writing you will find to be harder because the ground is not that rich with nutrients or trace minerals, and others you will find to be fruitful. It is worthwhile to explore those areas where few have gone, just as it is worthwhile to tackle an issue that is controversial. Either way you will learn something about the topic or yourself. If writing is approached as a daily interaction with the different parts of ourselves, then writing is essentially an outward expression of us. Being a writer is much like being a researcher and your own adventurer. You can get lost in the Amazon just as easily as you can be lost in yourself.

Being human is being able to adapt to the new environment around us, to change with it. Writing has many different tones and fluencies, changing from essay to research paper to informal email. I surprise myself daily with the amount of fluency I have when I am writing as a poet, a student, an advisor, or a friend. It is almost as if my writing changes with the knowledge and the words of that particular field. I can see the change in me as I go from being the student, to being the teacher, to being the supportive friend. I am always an explorer and scholar. As the years pass, I can look at all my writings and see how much my spirit and my understanding of the way things work has grown, or I can see my writing as something that I want to pass on so that my children can see what was important to me while I was growing up. Either way, it is an overview of the growth process, which in turn becomes a learning experience.

© 2003 S. E. Chambers

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