How Do You Write When There Are No Words?

Sometimes it’s OK to take a step back and just breathe

TW: Assault, abuse

It’s 10:13pm and despite my aim of always working one week ahead with this newsletter so that it gives me a chance to self-edit, I find myself sitting in my childhood bedroom surrounded by the candles that I’ve lit to mark the tragic and untimely death of Sarah Everard. I’m so tired. I don’t mean physically: I’m spiritually tired of being a woman and of watching the way that we are treated every single day.

I’ve found it impossible to concentrate this week. I’ve been bubbling away with fury watching the news: how many of us have to die before women are allowed to live their lives without fear? Watching the way that socially distant vigils were interrupted by police last night was a depressing reminder that men will always have power that they can wield over women. Our society is not designed to be kind to women, especially not women from minority backgrounds-as we’ve seen from the media coverage of Meghan Markle, who bravely spoke out about her mental health struggles this week. As many others have pointed out, what can women do if the very people who are supposed to protect us and keep us safe are able to attack us, or silence us when we speak out about injustice? We can’t put our lives on hold, that’s for sure.

I’ve had so many conversations about women’s safety this week, and I’ve seen plenty of comments from friends, colleagues, and total strangers. There’s been a lot of well-intentioned questions from men about how they can help improve the situation, and I’ve seen an awful lot more moral posturing. I hope anyone reading this knows that the tragic death of a woman who had so much more to live for should not be mined for a byline, or form the basis for your dopamine hit when someone retweets or favourites your comment. This is a human life we are talking about, not a chance to bolster your personal brand.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t talk about tragic events like the murder of Sarah Everard, though. We can use our collective anger as momentum. I have been bowled away by the incredibly strong women who have come out and shared the occasions where their safety and comfort was threatened by the behaviour of men. I too chimed in with the first time I can remember feeling that being a woman was a struggle:

This is just one of many instances whereby a man made me fear for my own safety: there was also the time that I was strangled by a boyfriend’s sibling at a house party; the time I was bombarded by threatening emails after I decided I no longer wanted to pursue a relationship with a man; and the time that I was groped at school by a boy who I once thought of as a friend. There was the business man who thought the money he put in the tip jar at work entitled him to lay his hand on me. There were persistent texts from men who wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Then there were the hundreds of wolf-whistles and catcalls from builders, or men in cars who drove past in slow motion, leering as my cheeks flushed and I kept my eyes trained on the pavement. Nearly every woman has one or more stories like this: among women aged 18–24, 97% said they had been sexually harassed, while 80% of women of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

But equally, you don’t have to tell your story if you don’t want to. While coming forward and adding your voice to the cacophony of women who’ve been wronged can be cathartic, it can also be incredibly traumatic and triggering for others. If you’re not yet ready to share your story, or even if you’re never ready to talk about something that happened to you — that’s OK. We live in a world where it often feels like our every experience has to be mined for content. Sometimes it’s OK to take a step back, and take a breather from social media.

I’m going to be practising what I preach, and taking a breather from social media, The Indiependent and constantly keeping up with the news for the next week. With that in mind, there won’t be a newsletter next Sunday — I’ve booked a week of annual leave so I’m going to be revising my novel, going on long walks and trying not to doomscroll the days away. See you soon…

My week

… in editing

Can you believe What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? turned 10 this week? I certainly can’t — read Joshua Ong’s great ‘Blast From The Past’ feature here.

… in writing

Pitches: 3 (1 new, 2 repitches)

Commissions: 0

Had a bad run of the out-of-offices this week.

Articles written: 1

Articles published: 1

I launched my new column ‘I made you this mixtape… but then this journalist ripped it to shreds’. It’s been really well received and it was a lot of fun to write. You can read the first issue here: ‘ This is not a mix tape. | René Magritte is turning in his grave ‘.

If you’d like to submit a mixtape for consideration (there’s no need to send me the physical mixtape), you can send me an email on beth.kirkbride@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter (@ BettyKirkers). I can pay you £5 for photos of the album, album artwork, and tracklist and this gives me the non-refundable rights to roast your former flame.

… in listening/watching

It’s a question that comes up a lot in journalism circles — should you ever write for free? I tried to address some of the nuances in the debate on the latest episode of the Freelancing for Journalists podcast. Listen here:

… in reading

I haven’t really been able to concentrate on anything at all this week, so I’ve not read an awful lot.

Originally published at https://thepeakdistrict.substack.com.

The Indiependent Founder, NCTJ qualified journalist, Oxford University grad. Interested in tech, political communication & data ethics. Tweets: @BettyKirkers

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