The man who raped me published an editorial about the “horrors of rape” in a mainstream publication. I didn’t know what to do with the anger and pain that was destroying my stomach lining, and so I decided to start a zine. The zine was a place for survivors to rant and rave. It was a place for us to hold each other’s pain. It was a place to honour our voices. It was a place of healing and of rage.
After years of silence, I started writing again out of rage. I keep writing because of community. I keep writing because through my work I reject shame.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m still angry. I’m angry because of the years I spent in silence. I’m angry because I’m tired of being made to believe that my voice is worthless. I’m angry and I choose to use my anger. It drives me to fight for a better world, to take up space, to yell, and to write.
I’ve also been lucky enough to find a community of supportive writers. Their creativity and courage inspire me every day. My writing practice would not exist without workshops with poets Jaclyn Desforges and Robin Richardson, mentorship from memoirist Nicole Breit, and creative exchanges with talented writers such as Sara Patterson and Pauline Holdsworth.
I work full time in a demanding job, so my writing practice is fragmented by necessity. I write what I can, when I can. I keep an archive of bits and pieces in a Google Drive. Sometimes I’m typing on my phone while I’m on a streetcar, other times I’m editing while shoving a sad desk lunch into my face.
I don’t actually think that writing is limited to the time you spend typing. A good portion of my writing is about letting ideas and concepts percolate while I read, look at art, watch horror movies, get wine drunk with friends and yell about politics- whatever.
When I do have a full day of writing available to me, it starts with reading through all of my scribbles and finding a common theme. If nothing is coming together, I’ll leaf through old journals to see if there’s an entry, a thought, or a concept that has heat to it — a something that compels me to explore it further. I like to work on my couch at home, with my papers spread out across the coffee table. I read my work out loud to my cat. It helps me to feel the shape of the words. It helps me to feel if the sentences are... reverberating in a way that creates a resonance. The cat remains unimpressed.
I’ve recently been working on a piece about the subject-object problem in philosophy, coming of age as a woman, and seeing and being seen. I started the piece after stumbling across old notes from a philosophy of mind course. I started to think about identity theory and bodily continuity as it relates to growing up and into your sexuality. I realized that a completely different piece I’d been working on about cat-calling and the male gaze was actually related to identity — I decided I wanted to explore how the male gaze influenced the way I developed my sense of self. I started copying and pasting fragmented pieces of writing together, almost like it was a jigsaw puzzle.
I can do this for hours, usually while buzzed off a sugar-free Red Bull, moving around ideas and pieces of narrative, looking for unexpected connections of concept and metaphor.
After I’ve finished a draft, I let the piece sit. I workshop my pieces extensively. I edit compulsively. I experiment with different structures. When the piece is finally working, I feel it in my gut. That doesn’t always happen. My Google Drive is a storage locker of half-told stories that just don’t feel right yet. And so, I keep experimenting. I keep learning. I keep reading. I keep reminding myself to be patient, even though another part of me constantly wants to throw a tantrum like a toddler.
WHY ISN’T THIS PIECE WORKING YET I WANNA BOOK DEAL AND A NOBEL PRIZE RIGHT NOW
When all else fails — say, I’ve recently been crushed by a rejection or I’m drowning in a depressive episode — I try to channel the delusional confidence of my narcissistic ex who once earnestly told me that the world wasn’t ready for his writing. His work, he said, was simply too pure and unadulterated in its genius. Now, if that man could call his misogynistic word-salad “genius,” then I can certainly keep putting my work out into the world and calling it “pretty OK, I guess.”
I mean hey, whatever works, right?
Emily Kellogg is a writer, editor, and cultural policy analyst based in Toronto, Ontario. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Minola Review, Entropy Magazine, The Puritan, FLARE, and Room Magazine. In 2018, she was named one of three finalists for the carte blanche/Creative Nonfiction Collective Society prize. A selection of her published work is available at emilykellogg.com.