"When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived!" - Anne Frank
I have just climbed the steep stairs to the secret annex at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam and I'm now standing in the small room where a young Anne Frank poured her soul into her diaries.
As you can imagine, it is a sobering place.
This is the attic with the blacked-out windows where Anne pasted picture postcards of film stars on the walls so they'd be more "cheerful." The room where everyone tiptoed so no one - not the neighbors, the people passing by on the street below, or the SS guards - would suspect 8 people were hiding upstairs. The room where she and her family lived, cooped-up, in constant fear of being found.
Through it all, for more than 2 years, Anne wrote. As she prophetically said, "I'll make my voice heard; I'll go out in the world and work for mankind."
Anne didn't get that chance to go out in the world.
She and her family were arrested on August 4, 1944 by the German Security Police and imprisoned in concentration camps after an anonymous phone call betrayed their location.
However . . . Anne Frank's voice HAS gone out into the world and worked for mankind.
Her red plaid diary and notebooks were found by Miep Gies and given to Anne's father, Otto Frank, after he survived Auschwitz. He waited several years after learning Anne had died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen to publish her work.
The resulting book, The Diary of Anne Frank, has now been translated into more than 65 languages and read by millions of people in dozens of countries.
Which goes to prove the long-tail legacy that writing can leave.
Anne Frank was only 13 when she wrote her musings in her diary. She didn't ask, "Who am I to write? I don't have a college degree, a Ph.D. I'm not perfect. I haven't figured everything out."
She understood she had a right to write - as we all do.
If you've been thinking of writing a book, but those "Who am I?" doubts have been creeping in and keeping you from starting . . . remember Anne.
If someone has told you that writing is an arrogant exercise in ego; or you believe it's presumptuous to believe other people might care about what you have to say . . . remember Anne.
If you've considered keeping a personal journal, but think, "What's the point?" . . . remember Anne.
Writing is an opportunity available to all of us. It is one of our greatest freedoms. It is a way of saying, "I have a voice that deserves to be heard. I have thoughts to share, feelings to express. I will put them to paper so they are not fleeting or ephemeral."
Even if your words never see the light of day, writing is a way to honor and imprint your experience of the world instead of letting it pass by, unnoticed and unappreciated.
If you choose to share your insights and observations with the world, be like Anne. Don't write to impress. Just write from the heart. Say what you believe, what you think, what you want, what you see.
When you do that, there will always be a receptive audience. Someone will connect with your words. The light will go on in their eyes and they'll think, "YES, that's exactly how I feel" . . . and they'll feel a little less alone, a little more understood.
You'll have achieved one of the exquisite benefits of writing - you'll be communicating and connecting through pages through the ages.
Writing, as Anne seems to have intrinsically known, is a way of saying, "I have value and worth and my experience of this earth deserves to be heard."
And when you do that, your message goes out into the world and works for mankind . . . for good.