What Anne Frank Taught Me About Writing

Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?

I, for one, did.

Since launching this study abroad section of my blog I never truly knew who was reading. I’ve always just written because that’s what I was best at.

Some writers claim that they write to stay alive. Others do it for payment. I’d like to think that I’ve been teetering somewhere in between: writing to get experience to eventually get good enough to receive a paycheck.

Anne Frank Photo

Portraits of Anne Frank in the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam |April 25, 2015

Yet, my goals were sharpened a bit more last week when I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. The Netherlands was one of those far-flung places of the world I had never imagined traveling to before I studied abroad.

But there I was, during the Dutch national holiday of King’s Day. Despite all the pomp around the tailgate-like day, the most memorable aspect of my weekend was my visit to the Anne Frank House on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

I ventured to the house with a group of  friends a day after I received a rejection letter from an internship I truly wanted and in the midst of feeling overwhelmed from the journalism assignments I had piled up for me when I returned to London.

But I was there in Amsterdam now, in the present, and I was visiting the Frank House because it felt compulsory (just like reading The Diary of Anne Frank in middle school was a requirement). So I went with an open, even if it was stressed, mind.

Anne Frank House

Outside of the Anne Frank House | April 25, 2015

It was overwhelming to walk through her house — the actual building where young Anne hid for nearly four years. Many of her quotes from her diary were written on the wall.

I stopped short at one particular lengthy quote. It was one I never knew she had written:

 I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write…but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent.

For someone known around the world for her writing, I was taken aback by Anne’s glimmer of self-doubt.

Anyone who knows me, knows I aspire to become a professional journalist. For the past five or so years I’ve worked diligently toward that goal. My parents always encouraged my writing. As a kid I filled up countless journals of the unfinished novels I was convinced would win Newbery Medal Awards. I promised my grandmother I would grow up one day and write a children’s book.

But after this semester of struggling to lock down an internship to progress my career and at times feeling like all of my journalism friends were more successful and talented than me, I was starting to feel like I had lots of words but no actual talent.

The quote continued:

If I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that.

And I do want to be successful in my professional life. But I also try to write for myself every day. It fits into the ‘writing to stay alive’ category.

That’s what this blog is essentially. If I don’t have the talent to write for an established outlet, I thought I should create my own. I was always afraid to share my writing because it was the most intimate part of me. Yet the distance between me and all my potential critics this semester abroad, seemed the opportune time to start sharing my work.

Who knew? Maybe some people would actually take the time to sit down and read about my adventures.

As I stood in the house where Anne decided to seriously hone her craft and rework her diary, I — and everyone else visiting — knew she had achieved more than writing just for herself.

I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten.

I don’t want to be forgotten. I think that’s why I write so much. It’s how I keep in touch with friends and family while I’m overseas. Admittedly, sometimes I write blog posts to send to specific people as a way to say, “Hey, I’m here and I’d like to still be in your life.”

I continue to write to ensure that my words and stories won’t get lost in the fray. There’s so much competition today for people’s attention and time. Anne worked on her diary for three years, not really knowing an end in sight, but instead doing it for posterity. Because she felt a higher calling.

I’d like to think that one day I also find a passion to write about, one that helps me be remembered.

I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met.

For the most part I’ll probably never meet the people who read my blogs. I do know some loyal readers. My mom and dad say they read them (it’s almost a requirement as a parent). My aunts often comment on Facebook and my friends like the links to my work I share. But recently I’ve seen that sometimes my words reach Middle America or Spain or even China.

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Walking through Amsterdam in the Red Light District | April 25, 2015

Though I usually pen my work for a certain purpose, I’m also starting to realize that writing has the potential to touch someone a world away.

Anne did it. Because here I was a girl from halfway across the world, 70 years later, not of the same religion or culture, relating directly with her anxieties, her passions and her goals.

I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!

I’m grateful every day that I’ve tapped into my passion for writing. There’s a wealth of gifts that people are given in their lifetime, but I could not be more appreciative that mine was the power of the pen. Writing keeps me sane and sharing my writing validates my feelings.

I live in a world dramatically different from Anne Frank’s. In this era of digital platforms where I can post blogs like these to my personal site, post the link on Facebook and instantly share my thoughts to you, I regularly see the fruits of my labor, which push me on in writing.

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?

I sure hope so. I couldn’t imagine being anything else besides a journalist. I’d like to think my thoughts and words somehow and somewhere might be resonating with someone. It’s a strange thing as a writer. You write because something in you tells you to write. The fact that it might be publicly consumed or criticized doesn’t cross my mind until after the words are written.

What determines great? Who determines great?

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Taking in the scene around Amsterdam | April 27, 2015

I left the Anne Frank House wondering what it would be like she had lived. If she truly knew the impact her teenage words and thoughts had on the world, on me. To me, her writing was great. So was her spirit.

Yet I truly believe that in the end it does not matter what I think of her writing. She said she wrote for herself, to heal herself, to make her story immortal. Writing has this extraordinary power to create clarity and closure for the person writing. If it also impacts someone else in the process, well, then that’s art.

Anne Frank painted a masterpiece with her diary. And I hope one day, by writing (and occasionally you reading) all of these blogs and articles to reflect on my life I can crack the surface of that artistic talent Anne had.

Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.

And I’m so glad you did, Anne. Thank you.

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One thought on “What Anne Frank Taught Me About Writing

  1. Jordyn
    So inspiring. Continue to follow your dreams/goals. It’s a life long journey. We all feel afraid and even discouraged. I say, just do what you do, because it’s who you are…fabulous

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