Speak To Me Now

It’s time to talk about revelations.

It’s been an interesting few weeks. Well, few months really. I’ve been engaged in full-time study and full-time work, and full-time writing – needless to say, it’s been truly insane. And not too successful, if I’m being honest. It’s just too damn hard. Trying to write a short story every week, while working every day, and studying to boot, was stupidly ambitious.

As a consequence, every one of those elements has suffered a dip in quality. It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to go to work, period. Every day, the compulsion to write gets stronger, the conviction a little more strident, and so frustration mounts. I just can’t solve the puzzle: how do you live independently, pay rent and associated bills, while engaged in a creative outlet? I don’t know but maybe this will help. Creating low-rent creative hot spots sounds like a great idea, but it’s a ways off from being a reality.

In the meantime, I turn my eye to competitions, magazines, fellowships and grants but of course, crafting an entry of suitable quality in my current condition is proving difficult, to say the least. Still, it seems clear that getting one of those super-competitive leg-ups is essential to breaking out of this humdrum cycle. And while I hesitate to say this, I think I may have found the thing I’ve been looking for all this time.

It’s called Spoken Word, and it’s taking over my life. I’ve seen a few examples over the years and always loved them but recently, it’s really hit me. I watched a documentary called ‘Louder Than A Bomb’, a phenomenal look at young, struggling kids in disadvantaged schools who were finding their feet through poetry, through the slam poetry competition Louder Than A Bomb. The power of storytelling, of words, has always been a touchstone for me and watching this really reaffirmed that as the basis around which I’ve changed my life.

So, I watched that film as well as dozens of other spoken word videos on the net. Then, I was sitting in my Short Fiction class at USYD, going through an exercise – to scan my work over the past few weeks and circle repeated words/ideas/emotions. The concept was to get an idea of your preoccupations, the things you might not even be aware are embedded in your stories, so I started circling some words and what not. The list wasn’t all that long and I found myself sitting there mulling it over. I like to let things simply gestate, give them time to form.

A few moments later I wrote in big bold letters: I fucking hate silence.

It felt like punching a wall, like tearing a hole in a space I didn’t know existed. I’m not sure exactly how long after that it was but I found myself suddenly writing spoken word pieces. Found myself entranced with rhythm & rhyme but more than that, with being heard. This is why I write – this is why I have always written – because I grew up in a stilted environment that taught me to sit still and be silent, to not speak up, to not question, and that I was never, ever right. The subject didn’t matter, so long as I was talking to someone older; our culture demanded my silence.

So I got real, real quiet. Learned to soak up the absence of sound, learned to live in it, to lose myself in books. Books spoke to me. Books grew up with me. They showed me to speak, how to live, how to love, but always internally. I got to be so damn quiet, I was quite often forgotten. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say “I’ve been here the whole time.” Just in my room, reading. Writing has always come from this place, this need to express what I’ve never been able to express. So you can see why spoken word, why slam poetry is so appealing – it removes the veneer of fiction, removes the filter, and puts me directly in front of the audience.

Which is fucking terrifying, frankly. I’ve never done well in those situations; I shy away from the spotlight. Correction: I used to, but no longer. I find myself writing and thinking about these poems more than just about anything else now. Reciting them, practicing, listening to all the slam and spoken artists out there. Learning a new art at this stage would seem almost foolish, especially in this economic climate. I’ve been writing stories for years, been studying literature for years – at least there, I have experience, right?

… But I’ve been quiet my whole life and it’s time to speak up.

So that’s what I’m doing. This is just the beginning.

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