What if we just put into words what we really felt, what we really saw, what we really knew? What if we laid those words out raw and cracked and not at all complete except that they are ours? What if we stopped trying to make it pretty or safe or even kind and instead just let it be real?
What if we wrote from the place in ourselves that is wounded but brilliant with light?
What would that look like?
This week, I’ve had several conversations with folks, all women interestingly, about how we struggle with just saying what we really mean. Most of these chats were about conversations – words in the air – but they made me think about when we do this on the page.
Sometimes I choose the safer thing, the less controversial thing to write about because, well, because I’m scared. I’m scared of what people will think, but I’m also scared of what I really think. More though, I’m scared that I can’t capture what I really think in words.
This book I’m working on now – it absolutely terrifies me. I am so scared that I will be offensive, that I will seem to be appropriating other peoples’ stories, that I’ll reveal (to my readers and myself) that really I’m a racist after all. I’m really scared.
I could write a lot of safer things – nice stories about what it was to spend my high school years in a rural county, tales of teenage angst as a creative kid who didn’t quite fit in, narratives of my brother and I playing with aerosol cans in Grandpa’s fireplace – and those are all valuable, interesting stories. But they are not the story I need, I want to tell. They’re just safe, nice stories.
So I’m trying to just say it. I’m trying to put into words all the hard, scary, unclear, complicated thinking, feeling, remembering, living that comes with writing this painful, beautiful history. I will probably make some people angry; I will probably find out some things about myself that I don’t really like; I may even lose some people from my life for this writing.
You know what though? It’s so worth it. It’s worth it for what it teaches me about myself and about my culture. It’s worth it for the support (so massive) that is swelling around the project. But most of all, it’s worth it because these people – Lucy, Berthier, Malvina, Moses, Ben, Sylvia, Creasia, Kessia, Primus, Tom, Ned, Jesse, Betsey, Cato, Phyllis – these people are important. They deserve to have their stories told, their voices heard. They are what make it worth it.
So what if we all just said it? What if we all just put down what we really thought, wrote the stories we felt the passion for, laid it on the line? Because the stories – they are worth it.
What story would you tell if you put aside your fear? What holds you back from telling that story?