Guest Post: As Student Writers by Alena Zhang

We are often intimidated at the thought of putting our writing out into the world. Writing makes us vulnerable; reading someone’s poem is like peeking into their soul. Without writing, however, we would have no way to articulate the inner workings of our minds. Our hopes, our fears, our existential questions – the thoughts that race through our heads at night – would have nowhere to go. But writing gives us an outlet for our thoughts, a place for words to flow from pen to paper without restriction. Regardless of how polished the product is, there is something magical about the act of putting our thoughts into words.

It’s impossible to feel that magic if we don’t write. There are millions of events we could write about at any point in our lives. Whether it be about a recent tragedy, a minor everyday annoyance, or a family disagreement, we all have things we want to talk about. Although writing makes us feel vulnerable, it gives us a sense of freedom; only by experiencing vulnerability do we understand the feeling of courage.

We often underestimate our artistic ability because we constantly compare ourselves to the greats: Walt Whitman, Shakespeare, and Emily Dickinson, to name a few. Their elegant, moving way with words seems so out of our reach. But we all have things to say, and we all have distinct writing styles that no one else can match. Writing should cater first and foremost to ourselves, not to the people around us.

Find time to write. One of the most common student complaints is “I’m too busy.” But if you can spend half an hour scrolling through social media or watching Netflix, you can set aside a couple of minutes a day to write. Jot down your thoughts, take note of something interesting you saw that day. Talk about something you learned. Craft the fantasy short-story that you’ve been dreaming up in your head. Rant about something that bothers you.

A “litmag” – short for literary magazine – is a publication devoted to literature of all kinds. Whether it be short stories, poetry, or essays, litmags showcase a cohesive collection of work from a diverse range of authors. Circulation can reach up to half a million readers, or as few as a hundred. In high schools all across the country, student-run litmags must solicit submissions from peers, critique the pieces, vote on the works they enjoy, and design the visual aspects of the magazine. The first step is the most difficult part.

So if your school has a litmag or newspaper, consider joining the staff. Consider submitting your writing to the litmags and writing competitions across the country. Get your voice out into the world, and leave your mark. There’s a place for all forms of art, and there is nothing to be scared of, regardless of the rejections or criticisms you’ll face. Above all, what should matter most is that you’ve let your voice and opinions be heard.


Alena ZhangAlena Zhang is currently a junior at Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey. The third year of high school is pretty rough, but she’s doing her best to stay afloat.

Alena’s poem “Perennial” appears in Black Fox Issue 13.

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