Writing is survival.
April is National Poetry Month in the U.S., and I got a bit ahead of myself last month when I shared my first original work on the Feminessay platform (besides these monthly editor’s letters) through a poem that I wrote following the sudden death of a friend. It was never my plan to share a piece on the site in that way, but it felt right. And it felt easy. I wrote, I typed, I finished, and then I clicked a few checkboxes and hit “submit.” In almost a mechanical sequence of motions, I was able to share my story with an audience who elects to read my work- and what better way is there to share a piece that you’ve poured your heart and soul into than an easy one?
Once I moved past the “Who is even going to read this?” and “Who cares?” self-doubting, downplaying moments (and believe me, as much as I write and enjoy reading my own writing, those moments still come very often), I hit “Publish” and moved on with my day. It wasn’t about who would read my work, how many people would read my piece, or how many people would respond to it. One thing about online publishing is that there are always more people seeing what you share than is actually indicated. And that is what made me publish. Sure, a few people double-clicked, some even left comments, but I published my piece for those who would read it and never let me know that they did so. I shared my story for those with too much pride to let me know that they liked it, too little to say to let me know that they felt it, and too caught up in their own survival to take the time to acknowledge mine.
After all of these months of encouraging you all to write, share your truths, and move beyond the fear of public readership, I had to do just that, and it felt so good to be able to do it. I received texts and messages from people who knew me and complete strangers who didn’t know what I was going through, offered their encouragement, and sent good intentions my way. Anyone who has shared a piece on Feminessay knows how much we appreciate your vulnerability, and we strive to make this a welcoming space where we can support you through your processes of healing, truth sharing, and writing about your lived experience for whatever reasons you deem necessary.
Writing is about survival- and in so many different ways. It is one of many methods through which our stories are preserved as snapshots of memories and hopes for the future. It is also how we reach those who cannot or will not hear us. Survival is not about safety, comfort, privilege, or luxury. It’s messy, dangerous, risky, and even though it sometimes comes naturally, we often prevent ourselves from tapping into doing exactly what it takes to make sure that your stories survive. Nikki Giovanni, one of my favorite poets, once wrote: “Writing is... what I do to justify the air I breathe.” I think about my writing like this:
Writing is the natural instinct that comes when I don’t want to let a memory or dream go. If it is too embarrassing, painful, sad, or frustrating to say at the moment, I write it down. If it is too good for words, I make a quick note that I revisit once my excitement has settled.
No matter what, I write.
Feminessay makes it easy for our stories to survive. I challenge you to ask yourself these same questions because every story about your lived experience is a story of survival. Eliminate the excuses of time, talent, and being “too busy” and ask yourself why you don’t share your work. Seriously, no piece is too short or too long. No story is too insignificant. No location is too far. No submission of original, previously unpublished work is turned away. No description of your writing is too anything to keep it from being published and shared with the world. So what are you waiting for? Write for your survival. I gave the poem I shared another read, and I noticed little places where I wanted to say more, words that I wished I had rephrased, and sections that I could have deleted. But if I had done so, the story of how I was feeling at that moment would not have been fully told. I’m still glad that I shared that piece. It allowed readers into a part of my experience that they may have otherwise never discovered, and for that I am thankful.
This month, as we show our appreciation for poetry and many other genres of writing, let’s also continue to appreciate the stories being told. I say it all the time, but I am always amazed and touched by the submissions that we receive and the amount of trust that women have in Feminessay to share such personal moments with the world. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your sharing, healing, laughter, learning, and creation of community. We’re growing every day, and your words, your stories, and your support of Feminessay are what will make sure that our stories survive.
— Tiye Naeemah Cort,
Founder + Global Editor-in-Chief