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  • Shayda Kafai

For Those of Us Who Write

“For me, writing is a gesture of the body, a gesture of creativity, a working from the inside out.” --Gloria Anzaldúa, 2015

The students in my workshop today wrote silently as they responded to two questions: what toxic messages are you carrying about your writing? What thoughts and feelings arise when you receive a writing assignment? I wrote along with them.

I told them that my writing, too, roots itself in doubt. The apprehension feels concentrated, feels like a cyclical questioning. Writing while struggling through self-doubt makes you feel pixilated and distant; you are in an echo chamber. Writing is, as Gloria Anzaldúa writes, "like pulling miles of entrails through your mouth" (2015, p. 102).

It is important for me to tell my students, and you, of this struggle, of my mistrust of self and word.

(Image description: a person with light brown skin holds a pen and writes in a notebook. The background, including their mustard-colored shirt, is blurred.

This photo is a free stock image from Pexels).

We need to know that so many of us carry a fear of speaking, of articulation. Dolores Delgado Bernal and Octavio Villaplando (2010) ask us, "what is 'legitimate knowledge'?" Who determines 'legitimate knowledge'? So many of us have been told that our wisdom is illegitimate, questioned, and disciplined. Whether we are first-generation college students, transfer students, students of color, queer, gender nonconforming, and trans students, or disabled students, we all wrestle with our voice; we wrestle with writing.

Dear writer: those of us who search, who grapple with our own anxious insecurities, persist. We create from ourselves outward. We hold each other in community.


I am currently scheduling my e-book tour. As I write these words, I am filled with giddy, stimmy, glittery joy, but I am also filled with an overwhelming doubt...I waver. I teeter.

Last week, I shared with Kelan Koning, my best friend and long-time writing partner, that I was worried that my book is not "academic" enough (upon reflection, after reading this, I am feeling the crushing trauma of this confession, the shame). Kelan lovingly invited me to inquire, to question my language, to remember activism, bell hooks, and all the writers who write to welcome us into a conversation.

I share this wisdom with you, now, dear writer. When your voice feels inaccessible and distant, when you begin to feel apprehension about your words, remember: I want to teach your book, to teach your published article, your blog post. There is power in our risk-taking just as there is power in the sharing of our fears. For those of us who write, we press into this place. We write authentic and we write anxious.

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