Coming out of silence is almost as hard as living in it. In an oppressive environment, I survive by turning inward. It’s a strategy that has served me well and protected me through many challenging situations, but the longer I stay in the safety of isolation, the more difficult words become.
It is uniquely brutal, breaking silence. The stakes and the size of what Needs To Be Said have been growing furiously in the corners of my mind, and it all looms over me now, whispering that I had better get this right.
The only way I’m going to get it right is if I get it done. All I can do, is do.
When I think, and talk, and read, and write, about living a writing life alongside my students, this is the part I leave out. Most people do, I find. Even when honestly exploring the challenges of helping students build independent writing lives, I rarely read about teachers struggling through lapses in their own writing practice. “A line every day, even if it’s terrible,” I’ll hear. And I admire it. But what about when you miss a day, and one day becomes one week, and one week becomes months and your writer’s notebook is a brick of guilt you lug around every day? What about how even when you manage to pry open the cover and confront the discouraging blankness of so many pages, you sit with the pen hovering over the paper and let the white noise roar in the space between your ears, and you write nothing?
This is hard to admit, to talk about, to write about. It is hard to come back to this place. I’m ashamed at how long I’ve left it. I’m afraid I’ll abandon it again. But I think there is value in pushing my way through fear and shame, instead of trying to leave it behind me. And I want to have something to say, some experience to draw on, when I sit with my students before overwhelmingly blank pages and pick up a pen. I want them to know that we can always begin again.