I write. Or try to anyway. Poems and essays with topics given, chosen, or that have found me. Words have been my art form of choice since I was young - ex. I was on a “writing team” in middle school, competitively writing short stories. I don’t claim expertise or perfection with words but they’re my loves.
Words fascinate me. They impact perception; that is, what you have language for and what you name, is seen. Words are validating - discovering that there is a word or a story for that thing you experienced creates belonging and community. Words are like spells – giving form to formless and creating intention and motivation for specific goals. Words are also entities – they are distinct and independent once formed, capable of action, including injury.
The thing with words: they’re uncontrollable. Irreverent. Disobedient. Much like young children. They come when they want, not when they’re called, and they can be explosive in their need for freedom and to be seen. Their unruliness makes writing………difficult.
The lack of control of words aside, the process of writing is arduous as well:
- finding the specific words for image or the abstract
- carving out the time around life to consume (for inspiration) and create,
- the unending process of editing and self-criticism (I often don’t re-read older pieces because of all the “flaws” I see), and
- the writer’s crash that comes after sharing a piece: the vulnerability and anxiety of being seen along with the pride and release at having created some Thing.
It can all be too much - words + process + crash.
A recent conversation between me and a friend, On editing and writing:
Me: “Jesus, the typos. I’m about to quit writing” (more prayer than curse)
Her: “Don’t you dare” (thanks, C; I won’t – another prayer rather than curse.....I hope)
‘Women's words are preserved through women's work.’ (R Jana, Mark My Words, link in text)
Marginalized people, including women, were silenced (are silenced) as means of control. Uneducated or undereducated, illiterate, ignored, dismissed, criticized, derided. Only certain people published and validated, perpetuating marginalization. (Have you heard of Nushu? A women’s language. Or subversive quilting? – women’s work for women’s words).Women make up the majority of authors and readers but the focus is often on men, and work by female authors is generally priced lower
“The most subversive thing a woman can do is talk about her life as if it really matters” (-Mona Eltahawy, Hearts Aren’t Made of Glass)…..or write about her life.
There is bravery and commitment in telling a story and asserting authority and value, especially when you are ‘less than’ by falling short of the ‘standard’ against which we are all measured. That standard being stoic, white, able-bodied male, in the ‘white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’ (bell hooks’ phrase; some of the 'standard' men are working to change the narrative by re-defining masculinity - deep bow to you - we are all here for that). Beyond gender, add the intersectionality in of race, economics, ability, sexuality and nonbinary gender, and we’ve got so very many opinions, stories, and experiences under-told and under-sold.
How do we change this trend of undervaluation and underrepresentation?
- Support female authors, intersectional authors, marginalized authors.
- Notice story and authority - who wrote it, who claimed it, and why.
- Receive the gifts: Support small bookstores (ex. Charis Books in Atlanta) bookstores, and/or buy from the author or publisher directly, and don’t expect writing content to be free
- Offer safe spaces to share story, such as a blog or writing platform, or a sacred circle, where women and others can practice verbalizing, sitting in, and being supported in their ‘story’
“...there is one gift that has no value until it is given. And that is story” (-S. Griffin, What Her Body Thought)
Personal commitment – there is power in words and in being seen
I am committed to words, for better or worse, as imperfect as I am; the words don’t leave me alone otherwise. Though I struggle to write (to carve out, afford, and be reimbursed for that time), my race and economics and ability shelter me with privilege. However, I use that privilege to benefit others where I can, specifically through women’s and family circles – creating space for and validating words and personal story as well as through a website my dearest one and I pay for and host so that women that want to write have a place to share their work and words, particularly if they wish to do so anonymously. Their voices matter, our voices matter, in circle and story.
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any" (-Alice Walker) What would you say if you recognized the power of your words?
Questions for the reader:
- How do you value or use voice?
- Is your experience with writing and language similar to the above?
- How does intersectionality and social systems play into your ability to value and pursue your own voice and inner guidance?
- Who is your favorite female author?
- Have you read or bought books by intersectional authors? Check out Charis Books in Atlanta – a great resource.
- How do you carve out time for meaningful creativity? – even if that does not involve words?
- I have to wake up at 3 or 4 am. Apparently other writers that were/are also parents do this as well, including Slyvia Plath.
- What is your favorite resource or inspiration for writing?
- Mine is Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet: ‘Nobody can counsel you and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all – ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write?”
Written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), RYT 500, and Wild Woman Project circle facilitator. Please cite word accordingly. Journal picture is from Pexels; the statue picture was taken by Allison at the New Orleans Museum of Art sculpture garden.
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