Writing, from my perspective, is one of the most, if not THE most, accessible art forms there is, all of the things that feel too difficult to express out loud, readily given voice (through writing)…
You don’t need to possess the artistic talents of Pablo Picasso, or Vincent van Gogh, to engage in this art form, you just need to have something to say (well, write) and, simply for being here- alive- we all have something to say/a story to be told/a generation to inspire. We all have so much material to write about, so many words within us that we can use to push for social change.
I know firsthand the impact that writing and storytelling can have. It has saved me so many times, giving me a reason beyond myself to keep going… When I write about my own experiences as a queer, neurodivergent woman, for example, I get to represent myself, to tell my story in my own words, thus minimising the risk of misrepresentation occurring, something which can, often, be more harmful than having no representation at all…
But, more than just an individual impact, there is also an indisputable collective impact of writing, too. Acting like a ‘window’, writing allows people to feel as though they are part of a community, providing both writers and readers with a sense of belonging in which they feel ‘seen.’ Allowing people to both ‘inspire and be inspired’, and, to ’empower and be empowered’, writing can help to build power and confidence in communities as, through the sharing of stories, particularly stories from underrepresented, marginalised groups, people feel more validated in their identity and experiences, as they are provided with a sense of identification and inclusion… The media is, after all, simply an extension of reality.
Their lives and experiences reflected, storytelling can help people to see that they are not alone in how they feel, that there is at least one other person in this world who knows exactly what it’s like to be in their shoes. This helps to reduce feelings of isolation that all too often exist within marginalised communities, and eliminates the risk of symbolic annihilation taking hold- the idea that if you don’t see people like you in the media you consume, you must somehow be ‘unimportant.’
‘Representation in the fictional world signifies social existence; absence means symbolic annihilation.’
-Living with Television, 1976-
Representative storytelling can, as well as helping people in marginalised groups, also help people who are on the outside looking in- ‘Stories are an entry point to understanding a different experience of the world…’ Through storytelling, mutual understanding amongst communities can be fostered, thus helping to break down barriers.
Unfortunately though, in the mainstream media, there are gatekeepers that exist to decide what ‘makes the cut’ and what gets jettisoned, the stories that get jettisoned often being those coming from marginalised groups. Failing to highlight the diversity that exists in society by either; overlooking certain communities altogether, or, inaccurately portraying them in one-dimensional/stereotypical/ wholly negative ways, only serves to encourage the adoption of a narrower worldview, and is one of the reasons why independent news outlets are so important, to give everyone an opportunity to tell their stories because, representation matters.
Without accurate representation, there is the tragic erasure of the beautiful multifaceted society that exists in our world. We need more frequent representation and authentic portrayal in the media to help validate the whole messy experience of being human in its entirety.
An act of healing, reclamation, and resistance, through the momentum of the written word, we can all be activists, providing ‘hope to the hopeless’, if only we open our notebooks (or, laptops) and write those words down…