I received an email last week, telling me that my writing doesn’t have to change the world, I just need to write. It made me realise that when I sit down at my desk and open up my laptop, I do actually put that pressure on myself. I seem to reach the halfway mark on a piece and then often find myself thinking, what good is my voice? My opinion? This isn’t going to change the world. There are so many things that I’m yet to learn and explore, shouldn’t I just leave it up to those who are actually good at writing? Those whose sentences sound as if they have been sourced from an academic paper, not an entry from a teenager’s diary? Or those who have more knowledge on the subject than I do?
Once again, I think it comes back to perfection; the idea that if I can’t do something perfectly, I should spare myself the embarrassment of even trying. Perfection seems to have many masks stashed away in the top drawer of its dressing table, but I’m starting to see past the variety of laces and feathers, and into the eyes that never change; that always look so familiar. But perfection wasn’t the only one waltzing around the masquerade ball…
I always find my heart knocking against my ribcage when I share my perspective on the world, whether that be if I’m talking to someone and I stand up for what I believe in, or when I ship a piece of my writing into the sea of judgment. I get scared.
I have been scared to write this because what if I don’t say the right thing or that I haven’t understood something properly? We are being told what we should and shouldn’t be doing, what we can and cannot say, and opposing opinions are flying all over social media. I fear the pinging of notifications. Judgment. Criticism. Comments informing me of how wrong I am and that I should have just said nothing at all.
So, I thought that silence was the safest option. It’s not that I didn’t want to do what was right, I guess I was afraid on how to approach the right thing to do. One of the comments my tutor left on my last assignment was: ‘Silence is a tool you can use to good effect,’ but he wasn’t implying that my characters shouldn’t say anything at all. If I didn’t include dialogue in my story, the sudden silence wouldn’t be powerful – they would already be sitting in silence. It wouldn’t make a difference.
If I’m upset, sometimes people just give me a hug, make me a cup of tea or sit with me whilst we watch a film together. Maybe they don’t understand how I’m feeling, or they don’t have the words to make it all better, but that’s okay. They don’t have to. It’s just the fact that they turned up that brings me comfort. Being honest that you don’t completely understand, but you are there to listen – that’s what’s important. That you might not have the solution, but you’re still going to turn up without one, instead of not bothering at all. That’s what matters.
But have I even turned up?
I understand that it is going to take more than just showing up to end racism, but turning up to educate ourselves, to stand up for what is right, for turning up, not turning a blind eye; they will all come together, just like words come together to make a sentence. A sentence comes together to make a chapter, and chapters come together to make a story. Stories can change lives.
The same goes for when I sit down at my desk and open up a Word document. I don’t have to write thousands of words each day and every word I write doesn’t have to make the final edit, I just need to show up and make the effort because that’s what will make the difference. Every time I turn up, I learn. If I keep learning, my mindset will change. If I stand up for my writing, prioritise it, I will realise its importance, and others will realise it is important to me. We need to educate ourselves and realise the importance of equality so then we can change the mindset of society.
I didn’t really know why Black History was the topic that I found so interesting at school, but now I’ve thought about it, I think it’s because I feel passionately about equality. We shouldn’t treat each other as if some people are superior and others are inferior. We are all human.
Just because something isn’t affecting us personally, whether it be Coivd-19, racism, or any other issue, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything about it. We can all do something. I listened to a talk last week, and although the speaker was talking about how we are all instruments in God’s orchestra, something that everyone probably won’t agree on, it can still leave us all with the same message: everyone has a part to play.
Maybe we see the Government playing the violin, those who are great speakers playing the piano and those who have a high number of followers on social media playing the guitar. Then there is us. Maybe we feel as though we are just sitting in the corner with a triangle. I know I often do. But that triangle is still part of the orchestra. We are still important. We still have our part to play.
I wrote a list in January of the books I would read each month during 2020. One of May’s books (I say ‘one of’ sounding like I read ten books a month. I wish that was true…) was the Help. I really enjoyed it. Yes, I realise that is the worst book review ever, but it’s the books that teach me something new whilst filling me with hope that I seem to enjoy the most.
It wasn’t that I was completely oblivious to the way black people in America were/are treated, like I said before, I learnt about it briefly at school, but there is something quite different about someone telling the story, rather than it just being told. Although this book is a fictional story, it is based in Jackson, Mississippi in 1963 during the Civil Rights Movement. I felt more involved, more emotionally attached to what was going on as the characters shared their life, rather than just reading about it in a textbook or being told through the media. It’s personal. Even if you aren’t able to feel the exact emotion they felt because you will never completely understand, you still feel emotion.
Raw, honest, real-life stories seem to be the ones that stir my heart and the heart is what needs to be addressed right now. We need to be raw, honest and real. We need to feel the emotion. We need things to change.
Maybe we speak different languages, yet we share that we speak a language. Our skin might be a different colour, yet we share that we have skin. We might love differently to how other people love, yet we share that we love. We might come from different parts of the world, yet the world is ours to share. We are equal, even though we are different.
We need to contribute with what we have, even if we feel afraid or vulnerable. Don’t leave it up to everyone else. We all have an opportunity. We can all do something. Turn up.