Morning of Day Three:
I woke up feeling really positive. Exhausted and in dire need of coffee, but positive. Day Three was the day I would be getting workshopped by my group. I was nervous because my essays are personal and hit all the bruised tender spots in my heart.
But, knowing the cerebral and delicious conversations my workshop had been having, I knew that seeing my work through their eyes would be an interesting ride.
I sat in the workshop with every intention of not getting emotional. This work on my identity, on dismantling my shame and my trauma is extremely difficult for me. I sometimes forget that posting my essays on my blog means that people can actually see and read what I have written. Isn’t that silly?
Knowing this, I asked myself what I have been trying to tackle. Am I trying to just tell people what I have gone through? Am I trying to unload on the world so I don’t have to carry the weight of it? I sat there and told myself, “I have no reason to refer to my life as traumatic. My life has never been as bad as others have had it. How dare I?” I beat myself up for downplaying the reality of my existence.
I simmered in self-doubt again. I boiled there.
And doubt is dangerous. Doubt makes me think I have nothing to be healed from. Doubt makes me think that I should be ashamed of telling the world these things. Doubt makes me think of my family, makes me think they’d be angry or upset at me telling everyone my business, our business, their business. Doubt makes me think that they’d never understand. Doubt encourages the fear because the fear tells me that I have a lot to lose by writing these essays.
Doubt tells me that writing is not just a solitary act but can be an isolating one as well.
I sat there in that workshop before my pieces were discussed and felt sweat dampen my spine, felt blood rush to my head. I was nervous. I was scared of being judged. I was scared of being told that it wasn’t enough.
And instead, I was told my writing was animated, had movement, was effective. I was told that my language had sensuality, that the sense of the body and the awareness of body was a thematic thruline that added to the writing. I was told that I capture the reader with my writing.
So far, so good, I thought to myself.
Workshopping at VONA forces you to relinquish your ego, forces you to really look at the work you’ve created. It asks you craft questions about spacing and theme and if structure and language are effective, which are all necessary in the revision process.
But more importantly, it helps you to see the areas which you are avoiding or running from. It helps you to see the patchy areas where you could’ve dug a bit more, pulled that band-aid off a little further.
And my fellow workshoppers did just that: They urged me to sit in my vulnerability more, asked me to take a look at the hard shit I was writing about and stay there until it was all out on the page, until I had squeezed out all of the infection. They asked me if the moments of self-deprecation was my voice.
And they asked me the questions that are starting to shape the very intention and direction of my writing:
What makes you so terrible and why do you write that?
What does your empowerment look like?
I lost direction for so long with my writing. I was so unclear what it was that I have been trying to say and to a certain degree, I still am. But writing essay has really helped me put some discipline in my writing. Writing essay has been productive, not just for my writing practice, but for my spirit.
The first question is a different way of asking what I have been asking myself since I began the essay challenge: How do I cater to shame in my writing? How has shame shaped how I define myself? Why and how has shame become a part of my existence and why do I need to write it?
But it’s that second question, scribbled in blue ink in my journal that hit me like a ton of bricks:
What does your empowerment look like?
I don’t really know how my empowerment looks. I am not healed. Shit, I am still looking at what I need to be healed from.
And again, I don’t think healing is a finite thing. I think facing traumas or pain in one’s life creates an unearthing of emotions that one may have no idea they have been avoiding.
I think healing is a constantly evolving thing. It is a recognition and acknowledgment just as much as it is an unlearning. It is often a revisit. It is often triggering.
But it is necessary.
I suppose then, the answer to that question is:
I’m working on it.