While I’m on maternity leave with Baby Milo, a few dear friends have written pieces just for you all. I know you’ll enjoy them, and I hope you’ll find some new writers to follow and add to your community.  Today’s post is from the stunning Marvia Davidson.

Loosen and Release: How Community Helps Us Find Our Voice by Marvia Davidson

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash article by mdavidson

It happened on a Saturday night. I was perusing my Facebook account and catching up with the latest news from friends and family when one particular headline caught my eye. It was a lengthy article detailing how significant numbers of African Americans were leaving white evangelical churches. As I read the article, it hit a nerve and bothered me in a way I could not articulate. There are moments a social issue hits the heart demanding a response or engagement, and sometimes I do not know what to do with what I think or feel about the issue. This post isn’t about the article but about how our thinking and writing can be suppressed rather than free when dealing with difficult subjects. Writing can be a catalyst to help us figure out more of who we are and how we navigate life. While I am not a writing expert, this one thing I know: we find our voice in wrestling our words.

Most of what I write is faith-based and from a personal, real-life-talk perspective. It is rare for me to write about issues like racism, race relations, politics, or other hot-topic, contentious subjects. I have not written about them purposely, but that is changing. The day I read that article on African Americans leaving white evangelical churches was a moment I realized I’d been carrying a weight of uncomfortable, unspoken words for months. I held them inside myself, clumsily stitched on my heart like patchwork. I thought holding the words would be safe and less scary. I thought it might guard my sanity and help me avoid unnecessary conflict. Better to keep them to myself then to share them online. A notion like this was not helpful for my writer heart. The reality is writing can help us resolve and clearly voice what is in our minds. This is something we cannot be afraid to do as writers, but it’s also a work we cannot always do in isolation.

It is hard to broach challenging issues in online spaces without feeling like you’ll be ostracized, bullied, or shut down before you’ve had a chance to voice your your mind. Social media platforms seem to have become contentious in recent years, and it can be tough to share and resolve issues. I don’t want to disengage or let my words to waste away within me, but I didn’t know where or how to begin the conversation on tough social and political issues. I wanted to engage in such a way that there could be civility and hope. I have seen the uglier side of social media platforms where you share words but then find yourself suddenly unfriended, argued down, berated, or blocked. I wonder if we’re afraid or incapable of holding space for civil disagreement. After reading the article, I decided I wanted, needed, and had to talk about it.

I knew I didn’t want to have the conversation on my personal Facebook page because the people I know range the political and religious spectrum. I opted to pose the question to a politically diverse online writing group. I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I knew I was ready to flesh out my thoughts. I also knew my writing community was a safe one where I would be heard and offered civility and gentle challenging questions. My community asked me good questions to get me thinking. I pondered their words and then sat to write, and I kept writing until I had nearly 2000 bottled up words splashed across my computer screen! I was surprised. Those words flowed out of me like a water hose on full blast. My writing community helped me liberate my words and to heal a bit of my writer soul that laid hushed and shackled for too long. Space to grapple with hard topics gave me a keener insight into who I am as a writer and what I want to communicate as a woman of faith. I was able to unearth a facet of my voice in the presence of a caring community of writers who made room for me to draft my way through my word-wrestling.

Community can support us in our search for what we believe about issues of love, race, relationships, religion, and politics, and more. Perhaps there are moments we don’t fully know our writing souls until we have fought for every word laying along our hearts like broken down timber waiting to build something beautiful. There might be times we let the words simmer in the hardness of our inner ache. We may allow our discomfort to silence us. We may even make excuses for our quiet when what we need is a gentle nudge that says: “Come to this table. You’re welcome to work out the cacophony of words clanging around your heart.” I think writers need these moments of invitation and reprieve. It’s okay to be reacquainted with the nuance of our internal voice. It isn’t something we should fear but something we can embrace as part of our lifelong development as writers. We are in a process of evolving and refining which is a beautiful thing.

Do not be afraid to coax your words out from the inner silence. Articulate your heart in the writing even if, and especially when it sounds messy and scary. For me it happened in a writing group, so find your safe people and ask them to listen, to ask questions, to gently challenge you. When you hear yourself and see your words, you’ll hear your voice, and its variance.You may find your voice reveal itself as a branch of the tree of what you’re already passionate about, and it was waiting for you to give it roots and breath.

May you find the courage and grace to loosen your words, refine your voice, and fall in love with the way your soul represents your words again and again.

Marvia DavidsonMarvia is a Texas writer/creative soul who enjoys writing, making art, laughing loudly, baking, dancing ridiculously because it’s fun, and smashing lies that keep people from living whole. Join her at marviadavidson.com. You can also follow her on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.