The title of today’s blog is a quote from Ernest Hemingway, and became something of a writing mantra when I first stumbled across it on Pinterest a few years ago. I’ve often said that I write to help me make sense of what I think, joking that I don’t actually know my opinion on something until I’ve written it down and had a chance for my hand and brain to process it together.
I’m not going to flatter myself into assuming that anyone who reads my blog has noticed it’s been quite a while since I last posted, longer than it normally is, longer than I wanted it to be, but the fact is that I haven’t written anything for three months. Well, that isn’t strictly true because I write all the time for work, but I haven’t been able to write here, write for me in a long time.
I’ve suffered times of writer’s block before, one notable period where the way that I cured it was to write everyday for 40 days , but this felt different in some way. It’s not like I didn’t try to write my way out of it, I have about three attempted blog pieces saved somewhere and had a few topics buzzing round my head pulling at my arm to be written; I just couldn’t “do” my usual process, for all sorts of reasons.
It isn’t just actual writing here that I’ve struggled with though, my voice on social media has depleted to all but a whisper recently too. What used to be a useful means of connecting with friends, sharing work ideas and commenting on the humorous minutia of life, has become an irregular posting of the odd picture so that people don’t actually think I’ve disappeared. My process is broken and like a muscle out of practice it is withered and weak, like a voice after a time of silence it is shaky and hoarse.
But I don’t think I am the only one feeling like this at the moment. It isn’t a coincidence that the last time I blogged, finding it easy to process and write, was the day that Trump was sworn is as president. In the time since, the world has become increasingly dark for so many people, countless lives have been lost, the voices of fear and hatred are shouting louder than ever and I, like so many, feel at a loss to know what to say. Again, I am not going to flatter myself into thinking that anything I have to say would make the world a better place or serve to fix anything, but the light I hold, the voice I have, has been all but suffocated by the darkness and noise of the world at the moment; to the point that I can barely look on in desperate silence. Too scared to comment, too frustrated to try and explain, too exhausted to retweet, too out of practice to process it all.
So why am I writing now, why am I battling through the hardest writing session I’ve known in years to pen these words? Because I’m trying to do what Ernest Hemingway told us to do. I’m trying to write hard and clear about what hurts. I’m trying to learn to process again, to use my voice again. And why is that important? Because others can’t.
I read an article and listened to a podcast recently that both talked about the fact that women sharing their stories is a feminist act. To use the freedom of speech that I have, the education I’ve received and the means available to me to simply use my voice is a feminist act because there are people in the world who don’t want women to speak, don’t want people from the LGBT+ community to share their stories; and so speaking up is an act of defiance and power. But more importantly if those of us who do have a voice can speak for those who don’t, those whose rights, freedoms and lives have been taken away , just maybe the story might end differently. Maybe the darkness won’t win. Maybe if enough of us use our voices, as small and frail as they sound when we are alone, together we will drown out the louder shouts of hatred and fear.
Our stories matter because the stories of countless other people haven’t been told. Our voices need to be heard for those who aren’t and weren’t. Telling our story is for us and it is for them. It is us telling ourselves, the story isn’t over, my voice is louder, defiantly sharing what the world might want us to stay silent about. And it is us using all we have to give some of our power to the powerless.
And it doesn’t even have to be writing, if that isn’t your process then don’t write it. Not to disagree with the great Ernest Hemingway but I’m going to change his words a little; write, say, sing, dance, draw, paint, photograph, run, play hard and clear about what hurts.
The world needs your story. Other people need your voice. Perhaps you like me are struggling to be heard right now. Stretch those muscles, clear your throat. Remember what your process is and stare hard and clear into the darkness of the world. Don’t let it suffocate you, dim your light and silence you.