I was 5 the first time I knew I wanted to be a writer.
I didn’t know what a college major was, or how careers worked, but I knew that if I was allowed to write down what I was thinking — and what others were saying — that I would be happy. And it all started with a panda-shaped notebook.
I would document what I observed that day in school with my jewel-toned Crayola markers into my panda notebook, trying to make sense of my 5-year-old world. I would write about getting the “Best Rester” award in my kindergarten class, or about how the snotty boy in my class threw my ballerina storybook over the playground fence. I’d write about how these events would make me feel and what others would say about them too.
This fascination with documenting things continued through age 7 (also known as my “Harriet the Spy” days) where I would beg my mom daily for a new notebook to write in. By 5th grade, her patience for my precociousness, as well as her notebook supply, were both wearing thin — and she encouraged me to enter the school district’s writing contest to put my fascination to use. One award and a middle-school journalism elective later and it was solidified — I was meant to be a writer.
It’s been 18 years since my panda notebook and I still have the urge to tell stories — especially on days like today.
Each one of us felt affected by the Boston Marathon explosion in some way. Many people took to Twitter and Facebook to express their thoughts and share information — and many people did it incorrectly. Whether it’s the media, a brand or an American citizen, so many of us forget to think before we speak — or before we write. Information gets tangled, stories unfold fallaciously and chaos occurs. Soon, we don’t know what is true and what isn’t, and that’s dangerous.
In this time of social media — whether you’re a member of the press or not — you are responsible. If you choose to tell a story, you choose to be responsible. That also means you choose to read the information responsibly. Just because something is reported doesn’t always mean there can’t be an extra fact check. During times of breaking news, Twitter can simultaneously be its own best ally and worst enemy.
One of my favorite quotes is by Nathaniel Hawthorne and it couldn’t be more true when it comes to storytelling: “Words. So innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary. How potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.”
Someone’s sister, grandfather or daughter was hurt. Someone’s wife rushed to help a fellow runner struck at the finish line and someone’s husband was a first responder. I want to know all of their stories — and I want to share them accurately.