Why one student writes: The story behind the words

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By Mallory McDonald

I write.

Sometimes I want to think only of politics, education, or the latest crime or fire. Sometimes I want to make something up entirely – have a character say what I can’t, do what I won’t and be who I’m afraid to be. And sometimes I’m not scared – sometimes I face what I’m feeling head on, writing the saddest, most accurate poem that gets to the exact core of me.

I wasn’t born saying, “I’m a writer,” in a pretentious, self-important voice.

I actually loved algebra. I loved that all I really needed to do was solve for “x.”

But after pages of work for all my math classes, all I had was a stack of the same work anyone else could do. Instead, I wanted to create.

It’s not that I think so highly of my opinion. But, I believe in the power of the written word, the freedom of speech, the responsibility of the press, and the ability for a story to change the world.

Cheesy? Maybe, but it’s true.

It started with a Pooh Bear journal my sister gave me. I was obsessed with filling the pages, watching first hand as my life – and time – went by. Sometimes the pages were filled with a review of the day, or which sister I was currently mad at. But other times I wrote about what I wanted to do with my life, my faith or how much I loved Barbies.

I was definitely a 10-year-old going on 35. I listened to and mimicked adults in speaking and writing.

I also wrote songs. Because, you know, I was going to be Shania Twain. I even practiced my Grammy acceptance speech and my interview with Oprah.

I wasn’t just writing. I was reading. I started with classics like “Magic Tree House,” “Tonight on the Titanic,”The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes,” and I was obsessed with anything about Pluto, King Tut or the American Revolution. I read “Boston Jane,” and the Shopaholic series, books by Cathy Kelly, Barbara Delinsky and biographies of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.

I started my first “novel” my freshman year of high school,It’s Always Sunny in June.June was a high school student who had lost her mother to cancer. The novel was about her journey, dealing with the loss.

Reading let me out of this world and into a better one. Writing gave me the freedom and the power to make an entirely new world.

Then came journalism.

My younger sisters started a newspaper, The Hail Dail, based on their names Hailey and Delaney. After the first issue, I had taken over their paper, promoted myself to editor-in-chief and renamed it The Hail Daily. But this was junior high.

My sophomore year, I wrote a story with my classmate Andrew about a man who was either insane or being framed. To this day, the ending of that story might be some of my best work. By my senior year, I was the editor of my high school paper and a paper carrier for the Pantagraph, the local paper in my hometown of Illinois.

Then came SMU. Countless English essays, poems, news articles and the novel I am currently writing. I have always written, always created something that isn’t just solving for “x.” Because with writing, I fit. Everything I think, feel, want to do or say, whether personal, professional or creative, makes sense.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is my favorite author. His meticulously strung together sentences changed my life, gave me a new hope for love, and inspired the kind of woman I strive to be. InThis Side of Paradise,” Fitzgerald said, “‘If the girl had been worth having she’d have waited for you’? No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.”

His writing is not only intelligent, but also beautiful. Who knew words were so attractive? So lovely? So sexy?

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong,” Fitzgerald said.

So to anyone who was patient enough to read this: you belong.

Words have power. Words lie beautifully on the page not trying to be anything but exactly what they are. And ironically, they speak truths far beyond themselves.

And because I can’t say it as well as he can, back to Fitzgerald one more time: I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and it is the beginning of everything.”

But in my case the “her” is my writing. And my writing is me.

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