Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Reeling through 2015, changing through 2016, planning for 2017

“2016,” I’ve said cautiously the last few weeks, “wasn’t so bad, on a personal level.”

Those of you who know me in *real life* will know that 2015 was, err, let’s go with turbulent, on a personal level. Whenever I think back on that year, I picture myself like a spinning wagon wheel, reeling down a bumpy road yelling ‘what the fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu’. It was quite an odd year, all told. Merely experiencing one of the things that happened that year would have been bad enough

But 2016 has been a year of big changes. I moved into my flat in February after frantically decorating it, living off takeaway pizza and having a meltdown about plumbers. After a period of sickness I re-evaluated how I wanted my career to look. That re-evaluation led to me quitting my job so that I now work part-time in a circus as I pursue life as a freelance writer. I’ve made stunning new friends, lost some much-loved people, started writing poems, finished drafting my novel (again) and persuaded the Arts Council to fund me on a writing residency. 

I even got to travel a bit. 

That’s just half the story, though. Because whatever 2016 brought on a personal level, on a political level there’s been no escape from horror and violence and upset. From waking up sobbing at 5am on 24 June to waking up sobbing at 5am on 9 November, to the unbearable experience of watching a news programme start with a breaking terrorist attack in Ankara and end with a breaking terrorist attack in Berlin on Monday night, it has been a frightening and troubling year. 

And it’s got me thinking. 

About 2017. 

Because with Brexit and Trump and increasing instability and violence in the world, I feel like we all need to do something, to do more, to fight back against the march of the right, the swing towards isolationism and protectionism, and the increasingly acceptability or normalisation of hateful speech, attitudes and actions. 

At the same time, it can feel like there is very little anyone can do on a personal, day-to-day level against these huge political tides. What does one do when faced with the horror scenes of Aleppo? How does one respond when we hear news that Trump has barked out every racist insult under the sun? What do we say to the government as they parrot meaningless, circular phrases about what Brexit is and isn’t (it is Brexit, it is red, white and blue, it isn’t going to be shared with us in advance).

I don’t have a clue, quite frankly. 

But here are some things I am going to do in 2017. 

I am going to use the one skill I have – writing – to try and tell more political stories and to try and explore marginalised issues. I’ve always done this – my Paris book which I’ve been working on for the last few years is very focused on telling the untold stories of women artists and writers. But I want to do this more. I’ve got two residencies lined up this year where I’ll start exploring these new stories and new ideas. I feel more and more that there’s almost a duty right now to use art and literature to create alternative media that brings new, honest and perspective-changing stories into the light. 

To be honest with you, writing is all I have. So I’m going to use it more and use it better. I’m going to keep on writing about violence against women and girls. I’m also going to try and write more about other subjects. 

Through my up-coming residencies at Spike Island, Wales Arts Review, and with my continuing involvement in the Read Women project, I’m going to try and do more to provide a platform for, and promote, women’s voices. In a world which saw confirmed groper, alleged rapist and alleged abuser Trump elected over the most qualified person ever to run for President, we need to work harder and raise our voices louder than ever. 

That feels like something I can do. Something I want to do. To tell stories, to build platforms where other women can tell their stories, to collaborate with writers and artists to unearth these stories and give them air. 

Because if we don’t write our stories, if we don’t build our own platforms, then the continuing swing to the right will go unchallenged. The narratives that are being fed to us that normalise hate – racist, sexist, homophobic hate – will become the dominant story. 

My platform is small. It’s here, and in a few other publications. Contrary to rumours in response to this piece from March, I don’t have a weekly national newspaper column!! But in 2017, I’m going to use what I have for all I’ve got – use it to tell the stories that I think need telling, and to challenge the stories that risk causing harm, pain and further political turmoil and violence. 

Watch this space…

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