As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a writer.
When I was a kid, I dreamt up stories about dragons and wizards. I wanted to tell stories that would thrill and inspire my readers. As I grew older, I turned my attention to nonfiction, writing argument and commentary about what I observed in the world around me (though I never left the dragons too far behind). Every time I sat down to write, I knew this was what I wanted to be doing.
When I moved to Austin to attend college at the University of Texas, my dad gave me some advice: major in something with a job attached to it.
It seemed reasonable, and with some resignation I accepted that “writing books about dragons” was a difficult career path. I decided to study English Literature and education, as a way to earn gainful employment while keeping my dream of writing alive.
I began teaching reading and writing at the middle and high school levels, while taking freelance writing gigs on the side. Over the following years, I grew to love both parts of my work, the writing and the teaching. Each practice improved the other. Writing gave me a real-world basis for my teaching and pushed me to focus my lessons on authentic writing experiences. Teaching made me articulate my thoughts on writing, which I then put into practice as a ghostwriter.
But this partnership didn’t last. Over time, education began to frustrate me. The private school, where I began my career, was built on a foundation of inequality and resistance to change. I switched to a public school, and found a series of dehumanizing systems keeping the place from being a true institute of learning.
I decided to do something about this. I enrolled in graduate school at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and began working towards my master’s degree. I thought I could influence education from a higher level and fix those dehumanizing systems. But the further I got into education policy, the more frustrated I became. It seemed that policymakers (and most advocacy groups) were mainly interested in raising test scores, a goal which only exacerbates the problem.
In the summer of 2019, I began writing my own words again. I was coming off a period of silence, during which I felt I need to listen, not speak. Now, I began to look back to my time at the private school. I saw it in a new light; what had been small, separate concerning moments now became connected in my mind. I began to write.
The story that resulted spread through my old school community. I received messages from former students and colleagues, telling me that they appreciated what I had shared, that they felt their bad experiences at the school validated.
It wasn’t a grand, large-scale impact. My story didn’t change public policy or start a movement (though I certainly believe that stories can). But it did have real meaning in individual people’s lives, and that matters.
Writing doesn’t have to be universal (in fact, it can’t be). I write because I think that my words will speak to someone, somewhere. I write essays, creative nonfiction, and fiction under my own name. I ghostwrite nonfiction narrative, web copy, fiction, and anything else for my clients.
I’m currently working on my first full-length book under my own name, which will expand on my two Classical Education essays (if you’d like to receive updates on this project, click here). When I’m not writing, I’m spending time with my family (my wife, my kid, and two Australian Shepherd dogs), working in the garden, or hiking trails near our home in Portland, Oregon.