“A writer’s job is to tell the truth.”
I’ve heard multiple reasons given by many people about the job of a writer, and though I listened to them, though I never disspelled them they never quite stuck with me until a fellow writer somewhere in my own history told me the quote above. Oddly, I don’t even remember who said it. But as soon as it was said I felt as though I had found home. It was like finding a piece of myself that I’d lost, and after that moment I’ve never strayed from it.
It’s something I’m proud of, and find disheartening at times. Everyone has flaws. In story and poetry writing it is perfect for characters but in application letters not so much. Unfortunately, I have a vast number of them: procrastination; anxiety; and others. It would be fantastic to flaunt the typical “very good leadership skills but also a team player”. But I hate working with others. My views are general extremely different, and I’m not fond of wearing the captain’s hat either. I like working alone. But most jobs require “togetherness”. “It’s not a big deal” you may be thinking. But I can’t even pad my application letters. I’ve tried. I’ve written the word “time-oriented” in a letter and tried my best to leave it because I couldn’t because I am not. There is nothing time-oriented about me. I do not feel it passing by at all. I’ve sat for five hours in one spot and thought that only twenty minutes had passed and thought that the twenty minute guess was a stretch. How do you lie about that? How do you really tell someone you’re time-oriented with this kind of flaw? You don’t. Instead I play on my strengths. I am unique, passionate, honest, and creative (according my me).
Why write about abuse?
When I began writing my view of the world was very innocent and I had the luxury of writing happy stories of animals at play, and of my understanding of Christianity. During my break from poetry my experience widen and so too did my view of the dark world with its many pained occupants.
As a child I spent more time with adult than I did with children. My mother had a fear that I would be abducted, and otherwise harmed so she kept me beside her once I was not in school. I sat in her office while she worked, sat in her class while she studied to get to a few CXC subjects, sat in the vehicle, or stood beside her as she spoke with acquaintances. Whatever she heard I heard, and she heard a lot of stories about abuse. So naturally I heard them too. It wasn’t that she set out to find the stories but simply that they were happening to a lot of persons who were willing to speak to someone who would listen and those are always few and far between. When I was older I would find that worried minds found me as well. They’d walk by and after a smiling hello, they’d began a conversation sharing how they’d been hurt, sharing how doomed they felt. These stories became the lookingglass through which I see the world.
However, they were not the only reasons for my decision to write about abuse. That decision was a compounded effect which climax when I witness it happen in the middle of the capital: a man slapped the woman with whom he’d been walking. Un-phased pedestrians and motorists alike continued by. Like me they had seen, they had heard the sound of his hand meeting her cheek as it resounded. It didn’t sound like flesh meeting flesh at all. I watched as he tried to assault her further, and as she pushed her face into his abdomen, hands holding her cheek. I asked my mother why no one was doing anything, I don’t remember her answer only that it wasn’t one that inspired hope. There I felt the most helpless I’ve ever felt, and I decided to do the only thing I could do, and the only thing I’m good at: I would be the voice of the abused, I would write the stories of the silent so that the free can feel their pain, see their view.
Writing about abuse is not easy.
I’ve yet to write all of the stories which have been told to my mother, or myself. I’ve yet to recall all of the horror, the feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and doom. To write a poem on any subject I envelope myself in the predominant emotion and then examine it: how it feels emotionally; the effects on the physical body; and the mental process. It is very effective. But it is also very painful. I know a poem is going to be good if I’m able to reconstruct an emotion which is so strong it brings me to tears, and also if having written the poem it brings tears as I reread it. It is draining.
But that’s not th only difficult part. For me having to defend my work is unpleasant. No one asks the poets who write explicit sexual poems if they’re nymphomaniacs, if they’re addicted to sex, *if they have been abuse. No one asks them anything really. Unless the piece goes above and beyond that poets usual (which is…so far out there it’s mind-boggling) there are no questions, no accusing stares. It is simply applauded. But me and my poetry? We are asked if we’re okay again, and again, and…again, asked if I’ve been abused, asked if there’s nothing else to write about (even though I do write on other topics). In most situations persons are asking for me to be quiet about it. But I won’t.
Writing about abuse is rewarding.
I have had the pleasure of interacting with persons who’ve been abused or have been affected by it through my poetry, and their responses are always encouraging. It’s not that they say, “Please keep writing this” or anything of the sort. Instead it’s their gratitude, their new found freedom that someone understands where they are or were, simply that they are not alone. Giving someone hope, making someone feel more apart of the bustling world which they wish to be apart of but often are pushed away from, is a great encouragement for me. Experiencing their loneliness after the abuse due to others misunderstanding of its effects fuels me as well, and I hope that I can help in boring a bigger hole in the wall that separates us.
The Musician was the last poem I wrote on abuse. Please share your thoughts after reading it. 😉
See you next week Tuesday when I’ll tell you a little about how I write in relation to audience and miscommunication.
*Persons who’ve been sexually abused tend to draw away from sexual relations or increase them to levels that are time-consuming and in some cases detrimental to everyday activities.