Orlando. Dallas. Baton Rogue. St Paul, Minnesota. Nice, France. Turkey. Munich, Germany. Fort Myers (happening early this morning).
As I sit here writing this post, I know it has been quite a while since I last wrote something here. It’s been a hard habit to break I’m sorry to say because this has happened when I used to write in my journal. I’d say I’ll keep it going…and then I don’t. I forget, and the cycle continues.
I recently returned from a family vacation down in Virginia…and since then, I have been filled with many swarming emotions in my heart and mind. We were down there when the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile happened. We were wrapping up our vacation when the shooting of police officers in Dallas happened.
…I changed after that. I have also stayed away from writing because of fears one word, sentence or idea may be misconstrued as racist or not compassionate, one-sided or too insensitive and angry. I have also stayed away because after the attacks in Nice and Munich and the attempted coup in Turkey, my words became silent and I found it so difficult to express myself and my voice during such tragic times.We all have our ways of coping with tragedy. I unfortunately shut down and go voiceless. It’s more than finding the words to say to give comfort, but it’s also finding the voice as a writer to give compassion, spread love and offer unity.
I couldn’t write while down in Virginia, a stark contrast to last year when we were in the quiet, refreshing woods of Maine. I felt so empty, stuck. Job hunting has been a struggle two months out of college. Writing contests were neglected.
One question began to manifest and grow louder:
What can you do as a writer?
That question numbed my heart. What was the point? What could I even say or do? Someone would have a problem with my words no matter what I said. What kind of writing could I put out there to help others, holding on to that mission I want my writing to accomplish? Does your voice matter? Do people even care?
I have felt hopeless, wondering where I can go and what to do. Even praying became a problem because I didn’t want to talk to God. I didn’t want to say anything because what could I say? People would still hurt one another for various reasons we all are aware of.
I was losing my faith.
The moment of clarity and heartache came Friday night when I opened a notebook where I listed a number of writing contests I wished to enter and work on after I finished school. I wanted to cry, realizing not only that I forgot them, I completely ignored them.
Talking to God helped ease my heart eventually, but when I remembered the 5th Anniversary Writing Contest I had signed up for before coming home from Virginia…I got to my desk and started writing; it felt fantastic.
I am currently taking time to look over my options with working and my future. I am only in my early 20s so I have plenty of time. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But, sometimes we are. The deafening silence of comments on your thoughts can make you bitter, feeling worthless.
Two other things began this time of contemplation. Before coming home, I saw on my Twitter feed a blog post from author and blogger Nat Russo. The post discussed common writing myths such as writing every day and the issue of show don’t tell in certain scenes.
I was left awestruck. I honestly can’t write every day. I have tried, but it makes me want to write less. That was one of the thoughts I shared in my comment on the post. It made me feel better about my path, that I was doing fine and it’s OK to do it your way. Looking to others for inspiration is always good, but conveying the lessons and ideas learned is up to you (another thought mentioned in the post).
The other, was an article from Publisher’s Weekly. Ever since I followed the magazine on Twitter and subscribed to their daily newsletters, they bring a smile to my day. The article, published July 15th, was titled “When a Bookstore is Also a Safe Haven.” I’m sure many of us agree that bookstores have been sanctuaries to escape the world for a while and even discover new books! As I mentioned in my book addiction post, I would wander and browse bookstores when I needed to get off campus and be by myself. I felt content and awed by the numerous books and other items, such as the adult coloring books and little knick knacks here and there. I would come across books I never would have found haven’t I taken the time to explore for the fun of it. Come across a classic or used book I thought would help my writing and be a good pleasure read. Even found books to help me look at creativity in a new light, such as Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work! I am also looking at Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. For some, other books help them creatively and personally. Some prefer one genre over another. That’s OK. What works for some may not work for others. That’s the variety of bookstores. A section or genre can become a writer’s own private nook for exploration and discovery. Plus, you sometimes stumble into one and are never the same.
I don’t have the answers to finding and holding to your writing voice when recent tragedies, whether in your own city or town, country or state occur. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and use writing to let those feelings go. Other times you need to take a break to reassess and reflect. I want to believe every writer’s voice can have an impact, positive, negative or in-between. That’s what books do to begin with!
Writing does that too.
Please be gentle with yourself when you cannot hold on or find your writing voice during troubling times. Acknowledge that the world has bad, but remember the good and what you can do with the pen in your hand, the keyboard at your fingertips and the pages of the book you finally finish. (I should probably take my own advice!)
Either way, I will find my voice again. I will write again, and my words and voice do matter. It won’t be to everyone.
But it will be to those who need it most, or come across it when they least expect it.
Have the recent tragedies in the world affected your writing voice? What keeps you going? What are your thoughts overall? Share below!