A few days ago, I experienced this euphoric feeling that I get when I get intensely absorbed in writing. I do not know whether I can describe it, but I will try. I feel a warm grip around my stomach, as excitement builds up, my heart beats faster, my focus sharpens and my heart experiences this near-explosive sensation, and when I put a full stop to a sentence, I take a deep breath. The deep breath is followed by feeling of deep satisfaction, leaving me elated or in tears. Whichever emotion it evokes, I call it my writing high.
When I get my writing high, I lose sense of space or time, as I experience a spiritual interconnectedness with humanity and nature. I feel like taking a paint brush and splashing yellows, blues, oranges, reds, greens, whites, pinks, purples, blacks and all the colours imaginable on a canvas. My high makes me want to take an instrument and hit notes that are breathtaking. But I am not an artist or a painter, so during my highs my academic side takes over, and I get analytical, philosophical and theoretical, and I feel like I am communing with Karl Marx, Audre Lorde, Frantz Fanon, Leon Trotsky, Chinua Achebe, Bishop Spong, Bishop Tutu, Rev. Njoya and Chimamanda Adichie at the same table. It is a deeply intense feeling, and I don’t even think I have done justice in describing it.
When I experienced my most recent high, I was reflecting on the reason why I write. Like the highs, writing has periods of lows characterised by mental blocks, loss of creativity and even questioning whether writing is really my thing. When I got my high, after a low period, I remembered why I write. I realised that writing gives me untold pleasure; it is my world, and one of the things that I was born to do.
As a researcher, I write for a living, and as a blogger, I moonlight in writing. But beyond paying the bills and getting the occasional high, I write because I am a woman.
The word for woman in my language is ‘mutumia’. Loosely translated this means the voiceless or the silent one. Woman was named after silence, or silence was named after woman; I am yet to figure out which one is which. The fact that woman and silence are synonyms is reflective of the voicelessness of women. I live in a society whose intent to mould me into a ‘mutumia’ began from the moment it was declared, “it’s a girl”. This consciousness of society’s agenda has set me on a mission to re-create myself and my gender; to give birth to an empowered and vocal womanhood.
The journey to recreate myself and reclaim my voice has been and continues to be a long one, with many starts and halts. In a recent blog, I shared about a novel that I began writing in my teenage. The novel was my voice, my way of speaking out about the gender differences I noticed as I was growing up, and challenging status quo. I never finished writing my book because real life priorities set in and these silenced my voice. Like many women, the day to day demands and realities of life required that I ignore my voice and focus on things that would sustain my life. Between getting an education, succeeding in a career, creating happy families, making money and more often than not, juggling all these, many women lose their voice in the rut race.
I am fortunate that despite missing the missed opportunity to finish writing my novel, I have a few tools, thanks to technological advancements, that allow me to reclaim my voice. I cannot however give credit to my ‘privilege’ if any, in reclaiming my voice. Reclaiming my voice has been a process and a journey that has involved listening to the voices of other women that have refused to be boxed in the ‘mutumia’ category. Women that left a mark in society through their voices, and those in my generation that continue to follow in the footsteps of their great predecessors.
Many women are however not as fortunate as I am, and continue to face numerous barriers that limit their ability to defy the notion of woman as a silenced and voiceless being. I have met women in physically, emotionally and sexually abusive relationships, in their homes and places of work. However, social, economic and cultural limitations render them voiceless and powerless, putting them in the ‘mutumia’ box that society has created for them.
As I reclaim my voice through writing, I hope that I can help other women reclaim theirs. I also hope that the women that I reclaim my voice together with, will continue to catalyse and help other women to reclaim their voices.
Because voice is power.