How to say the things you'll never say

Updated: Dec 21, 2018

“I would like you all to make a list,” said Rachel Long in the second session of The Writing Room, “of all the things you would never write about.”

The initial ideas will be things that you think you never dare to talk about, but you’ve actually been writing around for years. Then there are the things behind that, in silver spaces, frustratingly indescribable as they constantly dodge the circle of your search light.

How to say the things that scare you – actually scare you, not what you believe to scare you.

Ask yourself a question that barely clings to logical meaning – how are you, but what is you? Bubblegum? Nothing is the pain of?

Answer it, keep writing. Finished? Nope. The finish line isn’t for you, keep going. Finish the bleep test and then sprint another 100m; it’s as exhausting (and possibly futile) as it sounds, but you’ll trip over something you didn’t know was there.

Embrace the spirit of a freewrite. It is difficult to create “free” so perhaps it is limited in its prescribed state, but if you keep following, letting the path unfurl beneath your feet even when it is dark ahead, and force through any brick walls that rise by refusing their existence, you will soon find a page overwhelmingly full. Don’t worry about this, editing is for later.

There are many ways to say the things you can’t:

Say it in third person

Say it as someone else

Say it as a faceless, nameless member of a group

Say it as a lie

Say it through ruminations on popular culture

Say it with the voices and words of people who’ve said it before

Say it with the mundane things you do

Say it in abstractions; what is behind the second door of the problem?

Say it with the wrong set of images

Say it by ignoring what you know to be true and encompass the opposite of sensible and rational; speak kindly of that which hurts you, harshly of that which you love

Say it in brackets

When you’ve done that, return to the beginning and cut to the point; bin the bubble-wrap, strip the meat to the bone, skip the run-up. Then, as you come to the end, forget to stop; leave it dangling like a cartoon character running in mid-air. Make them feel that uncertainty that you did in putting pen to paper.

Now you’ve said the things you’ll never say, don’t expect poetry to be self-care. You’re in a paradox, doing the impossible, and you thought it wouldn’t hurt? Remember that as you choose whether to pass it on to the ears of the world. Not everything has to be said aloud, or read by eyes other than your own. That is ok. But if it will be, accept that the things have now been said, and run with the possibility in ending a silence.


I took part in a 6 week course from Apples and Snakes', The Writing Room with Rachel Long, which ended with a showcase at The Freeword Centre. The theme was 'This Is Private'.