If you’re not telling your story then who is?


It came to me in a dream one morning. I woke up thinking one word. I thought:


I started to think about visible versus hidden and I knew that it was very important. I woke up thinking that it was THE answer. I didn’t really know why, I just knew.

Why then? Why is visibility the key?

Visible – because when our wounds are hidden, they can be used against us, in obvious or more subtle ways. If we are ashamed about it, we can have an ‘Achilles heel’ way of thinking about it. Of course we should go underground when our wounds are fresh. Tend to them. Go slow. Be gentle. Lick them, or get cared for by our tribe. At these times, surround yourself with care and those who care.  When our wounds are healed, we may have a scar for the rest of our lives that we have to be careful with, for that new protective layer of skin will always have more sensitivity than other parts of our skin. Then we go back out into the world. Our scars are not a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. They are battle scars. Scars that show we struggled and were knocked off our feet… for a while… They show that we are still here, still thriving, and after all that too.  Survival is no shameful thing but a badge of honour. Wear it. Not to thrust in everyone’s face – like a flag to wave at them – but a badge. Maybe a brooch you wear on your outside clothes, holding the corners of your cape together in a certain way. It is part of us and we have only pride that we are here and still fighting.

Visible – because there are mechanisms that are like machines in our society. We have lost our way. We are no longer part of an ecosystem. Like a living, breathing tree, interdependent on the other beings around us. The trees surrounding, whose roots we choose to grow away from, or towards. With whom we build a strong, interconnecting soil. And, in this and with this, we all stand strong. We have built our brave new world like a machine. Inter-connecting parts but with no flow; hard edges, disparate, separate. Made not growing. Some parts of the machine are more important than others. Ironically, their spacious avenues are usually tree-lined, their large gardens filled with trees. Many would prefer that we never raise our voices. Be hidden. We are not meant to be visible.

Visible – because we gain strength from knowing others’ stories. It gives us insight into who they are. It gives us a means of communication. It gives us feelings of sadness that are shared. It gives us HOPE. Hopefulness. It gives us solidarity. It makes us feel less alone. It makes us know that we can be understood, that others can “see” us as we really are and that they have an idea of what we have been or are going through or what we stand for. It makes us feel heard, that someone is listening to us, and they believe us. That they believe IN us. It makes us feel known. It makes our story have edges, feel its way out into the world. Instead of being one patch in a quilt we are a whole quilt of patches. It has strength. It has presence. It has power. It makes our experience more than just ours. In that space, we are no longer isolated. “It was just me”… “It was my fault”… “Why me?” … “why could I not deal with it?”… if it happened and happens to others and I look at them and think that they are all right, then there’s more chance that I am all right. I am ok, bad things are not my fault/destiny/fate/ upbringing…

Visible – because if our wounds were visible, we’d all feel a lot less alone. If we could stop trying to be perfect, we would find allies all over the place. If we could admit more readily, without shame, we would find ourselves in very good company. If we stopped pretending that to have nothing wrong with us. We wouldn’t constantly feel bad because we will always fail the impossible standards. We could all exhale. Stop holding our stomachs in to try to look good and know that we would look good if we let go too… We would look good anyway because we wouldn’t care about the “appearance” of looking good. We could just be ourselves. The relief – the breath out – would be palpable. We could relax and realise that we’re all normal (with the bumps and scrapes that life has left us with and that we all have them).

Visible – because our airbrushed, stick-thin, silent, starving selves deserve more. They deserve better. So hooray for the spots, the greasy hair, for big thighs, rounded stomachs, hairy faces. We are all animals, human animals. Celebrate this. What made us think we have pretensions to anything more?

Visible – because, although we can find and share our links and our similarities, we are also not all the same. There is only boredom if we all sing the same song over and over. So let’s make our differences very visible. Let’s celebrate all our colourful diversity – our loudness, our joy at different “things” in the world, our singledom, our  skin colours. The world would be so much richer and beautiful if we could all make the variety visible and valid.

Stories are like the amazing mycorrhizal fungi that link being to being under the soil: tree roots; plants; the decomposing matter that makes up the soil… everything linked. And in being linked we are stronger. Take away too many trees on a hillside and you’ll see a landside before long. Root out all the vegetation and your housing estate will become a floodplain in no time.  As the structures that give it balance no longer exist and the land cannot hold itself out of that place of loss.

Let’s make our stories visible.

what did i learn from napowrimo? 15 guides for life?


it was an interesting process, launching myself into writing a poem a day for 30 days – yes i know a small amount of cheating was done! – i wrote up my learnings from the process today and i’m now wondering if they are a guide for life i could follow?

i learnt:

  1. even when i’m on an 11 hour shift at work with an hour commute each way, i can usually find the time to write a poem.
  2. to have lowered the standards of what i am willing to put ‘out there’ to others and know that i will survive it.
  3. that if you keep thinking about being creative and metaphor and hang onto that throughout the day, then you get lots more coming through – time thinking and mulling (even when you’re not aware of it) is as important to the process as writing it down. even essential to it. my pattern became to read the prompt then let it settle, i.e. ‘do’ nothing but see where my mind might take it throughout the day, then write something in the evening or the following morning.
  4. you get lots of stuff you’re sure is not your ‘best work’, but you also get more ‘best work’. some of this is just logical, more writing = more words on the page/screen, but it also feels like writing is a practice. it feels like a muscle that settles into itself the more you use it. it relaxes. there is a flow relating to creativity that happens.
  5. that you can ‘create’ the conditions for being creative/creating – there is this myth that we just need to hang around, just sit there, and inspiration will strike you like a lightening bolt out of nowhere, but it doesn’t seem to work like that at all. there is a quote from W. Somerset Maugham on this that is illuminating, he wrote, ‘I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.’ So, yes, inspiration can hit us but if you put in the work of climbing to the high place and putting conductors in place, you have a lot better chance of it doing so. 
  6. it felt very revealing of my ‘self’ to put more work out there, especially when it was written quickly and mostly remains a little, or a lot, unfinished.
  7. i had to follow through on the promise i made to do this. i had to make my commitment work. which was sometimes a little scary, sometimes a little boring, but this kept me on track.
  8. the mood i approached the work in seemed to make no difference to getting an outcome and to the resulting poem. some days i felt playful and completely exhilarated by the ride. other days i felt annoyed by the whole undertaking or couldn’t be bothered. sometimes the prompt felt inspiring, other days not. i went with my moods anyway, they became part of the process, part of me.
  9. you can write lots and get good stuff, but the great stuff is that which ‘blows your head off’, as emily dickinson wrote, and is more rare. you know this because it feels like it is not ‘yours’ (if it ever was) or from you. you are the typist and something else is coming through. this is where writing it down becomes a doorway into another world, even if we just brush up against it, even if we have no idea where it leads or what it means.
  10. i learnt new techniques for ‘seeing’ poetically – i especially liked the writing a poem backwards, so that the first line you write will be the last once it is finished – this is definitely one to use again.
  11. i have much to say, and that’s ok.
  12. it started my learning which could zip off into other things, i especially found the landays wonderful and fascinating, as poems, oral tradition, to the point radicalism and women’s words.
  13. i learnt that using form and structure can be useful. i know about some of this, having been an english student a long time ago (i know, who’d a thunk it?!) but have always shied away from using it myself. i think i saw it as just not something i can do, a little scary and also refer to number 13 below. to approach it, court it and mess around with it has (mostly) been a joy. i still have a terzanelle in progress, which i wonder whether it would also work as song with the repetition aspect of it.
  14. i gave myself the task of following the prompt each day as i usually hate all the rules to do with anything and find subtle and not so subtle ways to undermine them. so, i wound my neck in and saw the prompts for what they were – a starting point. this seemd to help my focus. i realise that sometimes i mistake focus for rules and it has been helpful to consider the difference.
  15. i have a huge amount of raw material to work up, if i wish, or i can just leave it as the cluttered glorious mess that is life…