Last night seven women came together online to write. From Canada to England, we picked up our pens and dared to write from the centre of ourselves. Not what we should be writing or what we felt people wanted to hear but exactly what we wanted to write in that moment. We excavated our deepest howls, translated them into words and then shared our stories. This is courage in action. This is personal activism.
By daring to write we uplift ourselves and by daring to share we uplift each other. This magic happens collectively. This is the power of writing and sharing in a safe group.
Yesterday, I started reading “Your Silence Will Not Protect You” by Audre Lorde and found myself underlining, marking and nodding eagerly. In Audre’s essay, “The Transformation of Silence” she urges us to write, to speak, to not be complicit with silence even if it is painful, because silence itself is painful. It is harming.
Writing and sharing unburdens that silence, it helps us to find fellow warriors with whom we can travel along the lines of a page. This has been my experience. My writing has unburdened me, unzipped me, broken me open. Sharing my words has terrified me, healed me, strengthened me and connected me. Sometimes speaking my truth has been painful and alienating. Within work and family there are many people who would prefer I just keep this Northern Gob shut. But that silence feels like a slow-motion internal explosion quietly ripping me apart. Yes I speak and yes, some (try to) rip me apart but I have my spear, my pen.
In Audre’s words,
“The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilises us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
There are many who urge me to give voice to my silences (they know who they are), who push me a little further or sometimes much further than I think I can go and who have my back and who cheer me on. By doing this for myself means I can help others do the same. This is mobilisation.
She Howls Women’s Online Writing Circle is a project borne of this passion, a monthly space where I invite women to join me to respond and write to a chosen theme. We are all vastly different in age, race, religion and class (and more) and we celebrate and share these differences, allowing them to unite us rather than separate us.
The desire to create this inclusive space comes from my feeling of unbelonging, my feeling of being a misfit in some of the groups I have tried to ‘belong’ to. So maybe I am creating a space for the misfits?! A space for myself to fit?
This kind of eclectic gathering has it’s own challenges (I’m still thinking this through and will share more in due course) but these challenges offer opportunities for growth, for understanding and for championing each other. If...we are willing to have the conversations. Clear group guidelines that every person respects are vital in creating this safe and inclusive online environment, allowing wild imaginations to flourish. And to work through any challenges.
Last night we explored belonging and how we can become ‘Citizens of Self’. The collective energy produced words of passion, strength, endurance and determination. We shared our differences and our commonalities. And laughter.
This alchemy could not have happened without each one of us being present in the session, without witnessing and hearing each other’s different stories and the safe boundaries that we all adhere to, that allows us to gently push ourselves. She Howls sessions become,
“...a collective moment where everyone feels an absolute sense of belonging and connection to one another and knows, absolutely, that the moment could not have happened without each one of them being present and participating.”
( Moskowitz 2006 in Bolton et al 2006 p.51)
Right now I am sat in my kitchen, in my fluffy dressing gown, still basking in the power and upliftment that I shared with 6 other women last night. The feeling of belonging and connection, something that could not have happened without each other. I will carry this feeling forward with me as I go about my days, a feeling that strengthens and empowers. The feeling that together, we make magic.
If you’d like to know more about She Howls writing circles or open mics please read more here. We welcome your voice and words!