The story we make of this moment becomes the life we lead.
~Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story.
“I’ve run out of words! We need new words. The strongest words.”
My friend and I were texting back and forth about the latest NPR news alert to light up our phones. It would have been a much better conversation in person, far more satisfying to laugh together instead of trying to find the emoji that most accurately expresses our level of gobsmack, of anger, of despair.
But that’s where so many of us are right now: stuck at home and stuck for words to express the inexpressible.
So, I write.
I write to make sense of it all, to search for a semblance of meaning in the midst of the madness.
And I read.
I read the words of others to find solace in similar experiences, in our shared humanity, and in the connection established through empathy. To share our words beyond ourselves is to cultivate compassion and create community.
Two years ago at TLAN’s Power of Words conference, Storyteller, Activist, and Founder & CEO of #MeWe International, Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, gave a presentation called “Storytelling as a Tool for Healing and Community-Building.” He told the crowded room why he believes in the power of storytelling: “The stories we tell ourselves shape us and how we interact with the world and others.” Healing cannot happen in isolation, he said. We need each other—we need to hear each other’s stories.
And thus the raison d’etre of “Writing to this Moment: Taking Uncertainty to the Page,” a journey from notebook to narrative, from the personal to the public.
Over the four weeks of this class we will record experiences and express feelings with prompts as a “trail-head,” then learn some basic creative nonfiction methods to turn our writing into a crafted personal narrative, which may be shared with others in the class—maybe beyond!
Because we need new words. We need your words. In this moment. Because as Toni Morrison reminded us in 2015:
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
Joanna Tebbs Young, MA-TLA is author of the award-winning biography of Vermont historian, Lilian Baker Carlisle, and has both a memoir and personal essay collection in the works. She holds a BA in History, an MA in Transformative Language Arts, and is currently an MFA-Creative Nonfiction student at Goddard College. A writing coach since 2009, Joanna is also a facilitator for Vermont Humanities Council and teaches online for the Transformative Language Arts Network. Historical articles written during her time as columnist and feature writer for the Rutland Reader can be found at Rutland When… Joanna lives in Rutland, Vermont with her husband and two teenagers.