Why We Write: High School Creative Writing Reading on March 17

In the documentary The Music of Strangers, musician Yo-Yo Ma says, “I’m always trying to figure out at some level who I am and how I fit in the world, which I think is something that I share with seven billion other people.” Yo-Yo Ma captures the vulnerability of our humanity—something that deep down we all share, but not always out loud.

Art is a way to stay connected to the essential questions: who am I; what is my purpose? Through creative expression we learn to swim through complexity; while art doesn’t necessary make the waters less turbulent, it does help to make us more buoyant.

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about MMS—as a student and now as a teacher—is how art is embedded in our culture. Creating, performing, and celebrating various art forms nurtures our imagination, capacity for empathy, and sense of justice.

On March 17, our high school students will be sharing their poetry, stories, songs, and other written work to family, friends, and the greater community at our annual Creative Writing Reading.

Writing is generally a quiet form of artistic expression. It asks us to pause, to listen, to self-reflect. It helps us to walk around in someone else’s shoes and to envision a better future. It allows us to remember the past and make meaning of our stories.

I love teaching Creative Writing because it is about making space for writers to step out of the shadows of solitude required of the craft and come together to share work, ideas, and reflections—both on their writing and on what it means to be a writer. I asked my Creative Writing 12 class why they write, and these are their responses:

Writing is a way to
Have fun performing our life, mine and
We take the little moments, the
Exact situations that make us
Who we are and
Rigorously overthink them until
It clicks.
The keyboard starts to click, and we produce
Excellence.” ~ Aki’o Nanamura

“I found my love for writing not by opening a book, or following some famous author. In all honesty, I hated writing until about four years ago. I couldn’t read until the end of 3rd grade, and writing was an all-around struggle throughout middle school. My passion was disguised behind my love for telling stories. When I was young, my friends and I would venture off into the mountains to play make-believe. It was an innocent game, and not much thought was put into it from our undeveloped minds. Yet I saw something deeper in this game. I saw the opportunity to discover new people and create strengths and weaknesses for each one. I saw the beauty in making a single, dusty field turn into a treacherous path filled with lava and unknown beasts. I formed legends of ancient weapons and heroes who fought bravely generations and generations ago. It wouldn’t be until much later in my life where I would make the obvious connection that I loved telling stories. I write because I want to discover what’s beneath the earth, past the horizon, and behind the stars. I write because I find a pencil can take me farther than any path in the real world, and I see real unmatched strength in that. Because I know the more I hone my skill, the further my mind will take me.” ~ Devyn Powers

“I almost never write about myself. I think many people write to reflect on their life, their problems, and what they’re going through or have gone through, but I write to escape myself. I’ve spent my entire life thinking about my life and my problems, but in my writing, I can become someone else. I can escape anything that’s happening around me and delve into a whole other world.” ~ Caroline Smith

“We write to paint pictures with our words, make stories come to life, and show others that they are not alone. We write to tell history, fairy tales, and personal experiences. We write to understand others’ views, experiences, and issues, and we write to tell our own. It’s a concrete way to show our thoughts, so they can be passed from person to person, generation to generation.” ~ Savannah Willoughby

When I reflect on why I write, the most basic answer is that I have to write. I need to find meaning through story; I seek to explore our messy humanity to reach towards understanding of others, forgiveness of self, and inherent truths of what it means to be human.

Novelist and essayist Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

I hope you can join us at the Creative Writing Reading to experience what our students are thinking, what they want and what they fear, and how they are making meaning of it all.


By Haley Campbell ’02

High School Creative Writing Reading
Friday, March 17 at 7:00pm
Upper Campus Assembly Room


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Director of Marketing & Communications,

 Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.