Like all of you, I’m reeling this morning with the news of what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend. I’m grieving for the individuals and families affected. I’m grieving for our Nation. I’m grieving for myself—for that part of myself that has held back, kept quiet, been “careful” with words, who was scared to say the wrong thing, so she said nothing.
She was scared and careful and trying, bless her.
But she has to go.
Instead, I’m doing something. I’m certain it’s not the only thing I can do, but it’s the first thing I always do when nothing makes sense. I’m putting pen to paper. Because now is the time to write.
I’m convinced in times like these—times when the world seems chaotic and terrifying and we have more questions than answers and when we are worried and disconnected and in pain—this is the easiest time for us to forget about writing. About any creative work. To push it to the side. To tell ourselves there are “more important” things to be doing.
There are, more than likely, other things we need to be doing.
And also, pushing our creative work aside is a huge mistake.
Take a minute, while you’re reading this and put your hand on the low part of your belly. This is seat of your creative power—literally where your reproductive organs are. Think about that. From this place—your most creative place—you can invent a brand new human life. It doesn’t get much more powerful than that. We literally reproduce ourselves.
If we are going to be out there in the world reproducing ourselves, shouldn’t we be concerned about the person we’re reproducing?
Creativity is how we shift that. It’s how we shape our souls, which are shaping the world we live in.
That place of your deepest creativity—that place inside of you that can be a bit dark and stormy and confusing and hard to look at sometimes—this is where all of your potential for human kindness, genius, innovativeness, connectedness, child-likeness, imagination, curiosity, generosity, neighborliness, and love come from.
Our only hope for shifting the tides of hatred, violence and evil—is that.
In writing, we name the things that are wrong. Put words to the evil.
There is something powerful about naming things. Even if you aren’t sure what to do yet, start naming what is happening. Call it what it is. Hatred. Violence. Evil. Bigotry. Start by speaking the truth and you’ll be surprised what opens up.
The way we say things matters.
We don’t change our minds until we change our words.
Writing helps us to process our grief.
Write your way through your grief.
Write what breaks your heart. It is only by processing your own grief that you become any good to anyone else. Grief carves us out from the center, cleans out all the garbage, challenges our fragile egos, strips us down to nothing.
Grief unprocessed becomes bitterness, resentment, and unharnessed fury.
Grief processed becomes a unstoppable force of compassion, empathy, and love.
Writing helps us see ourselves. Our role in the story.
You don’t think you play a part in the story? You play a part.
Let me give you a hint about whether or not you know the part you play. When you begin to see yourself—clearly—it hurts. Badly. When you see your own privilege and judgement and misunderstanding. You feel it.
If you don’t feel it… the vulnerability, the humility… then you don’t see it.
That’s how you know.
Don’t just try to sweep those big feelings under the rug and move on with your life. Those big feelings mean something. Write them. Write them all down.
It opens us to answers we couldn’t see before.
I hear people say all the time, “we have to stop talking/writing about these things and actually do something!” I couldn’t agree more. But we often don’t know what to do until we know what we think. How we feel.
Until we mine for answers under the surface that were always there but we couldn’t see them before.
This doesn’t happen in one sitting. Or two. Or five.
It happens over months and years and decades of showing up to ourselves, to our words, to the words of friends and even our enemies, over and over and over again.
We have to keep doing it.
The harder it gets, the more it matters that we do it.
So what to do when the world seems terrifying and hard and confusing and full of hate? Write. Write your grief. Write your fear. Write your stories. Use your voice. Speak up. Words change things.
Or at the very least, they change us. And things change when we change.