Why I write

When I think about why writing is so important to me, Audre Lorde sums it up best in her paper titled, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, “I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

I write to ground myself in reality…and to escape from it. As a kid I wrote poems and stories to realize the fantasies and alternate narratives playing out in my daydreams (I still daydream a lot). I was not, and am still not the most gifted wordsmith, but I enjoy the process of weaving words together to reflect my nebulous cerebral happenings-like painting an image from memory. I write because I have to. I write because when I’m in the throes of ecstasy or depression, I don’t know what else to do. While my thoughts fling me into space to orbit around fact and fiction, I write to either anchor myself to Earth or enjoy the ride. I write to cope, and I write to keep myself from getting too hopelessly lost in the cracks of my consciousness. I write to shed light on the private moments that make me who I am-for better or for worse. I write with the hope of being understood, by others and myself.

Things have happened in my life that caused me to question my purpose, my existence and the people of my past, present and future. I grew up in a bubble that told me each layer of my identity was problematic, wrong, or not enough. I didn’t have anyone teaching me how to love myself, practice gentleness, and direct positive energy inwards. And no one stepped in to keep me from apologizing my way into the darkness of pervasive self-doubt. I’ve spent an astounding amount of energy carving out space for others, and writing is a way for me to carve out the space I need. I cannot blame or shame myself for having to learn new tricks and unlearn the ones I’ve played on myself for years. It has taken me a long time to realize that I was mimicking how the rest of the world treated [gay, female, Brown] people like me. I must now dismantle the Trojan horse that paraded into my mind masquerading as a sound, healthy sense of self. One of the ways I can continue to undo damages and dust off the parts of myself I’ve silenced is to write about it. Some privately, some publicly.

I tend to be a pretty quiet person, and since I was a kid I found it more comfortable to wait for someone else to say something rather than speak up and make myself vulnerable to attack or rejection. Even still at parties, in text conversations or in comments sections on social media I’ll feel embarrassment or regret after opening up and taking what is, for me, a huge risk of speaking boldly and honestly. I teach young people to advocate for themselves, but somehow I exempt myself from this directive in my professional and personal relationships. Given this insecurity, I write because I feel invisible, and my biggest fear is that I will disappear. As Lorde urges, our silence must be transformed, because no one can truly speak for us:

“Of what had I ever been afraid? To question or to speak as I believed could have meant pain, or death. But we all hurt in so many different ways, all the time, and pain will either change or end. Death, on the other hand, is the final silence. And that might be coming quickly, now, without regard for whether I had ever spoken what needed to be said, or had only betrayed myself into small silences, while I planned someday to speak, or waited for someone else’s words.”

The best imagery to describe the process happening within me right now is that of something giving off sparks, small at first, before completely bursting into flame. On a bad day, this metaphor also applies. But in moments when I give in to creativity and imagination, I can feel myself sparking awake from a dormancy I was lulled into. I connect with thoughts and feelings I habitually suppress. I experience love directed towards myself, unconditional love towards someone else, or I tease apart an idea that would have once upon a time intimidated me into ignorant rejection. I feel pride in myself or I write something down that resonates with another. These are all sparks coming off of me that I can see and feel. I’m getting closer and closer to catching fire, but I don’t know what that will look like. I can feel the ideas, the movement, the spirit of my being that I thought died already. Writing is the vehicle that strings the stages of my evolution together.

I write because I was always shy and insecure, and to honestly put pen to paper reminds me that while I still struggle with these things, I am also incredibly strong, funny, warm, thoughtful, gentle, patient, and my tears are beautiful and come from my deepest self. These traits are as much a part of my core as what I struggle with. Writing helps me tell myself how fucking awesome I am when the world and people around me try to chip away at these strengths. Writing takes my feelings, thoughts and experiences that aren’t represented fully in the world around me and paints the blank page with scenery from the mind I’m living in for others to see, learn from or find comfort in. I feel less alone when I see my words written down. I feel a small sense of community when people consume my words with me. They partake for a short time in my reality, vanquishing the existential loneliness that is being human…because it’s so lonely.

I write because I need it. I validate the turning and churning of my thoughts by molding them into something recognizable. I would like to validate myself without externalization-but the process of turning myself inside out is a cathartic release that jolts me back to life when I’ve been holding my breath for too long. Hopefully I will evoke something meaningful in others and nurture existing and new connections. Most of all though, I hope that in the act of writing and being brutally honest with the emptiness I can continue to generate the confidence and love I used to spend my waking moments convincing myself didn’t belong to me.

I write because life is harsh, and sometimes I just need a witness.

“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?” ~Audre Lorde
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