As a business owner, I've been asked 'What's your why?' more times than I can count. I've always had answers, but I've never been satisfied with my answer to 'What's my why?', even when I was just asking myself.
Why wasn't I satisfied? Because I always knew I was holding back - the people asking me the question often sensed this too.
The true, but unsatisfactory answer
Often my answer was along these lines: I want to help female business owners find their voices and use them to write their expert books because women have been silenced for far too long.
I'm a feminist, and like all good feminists I can get behind the argument that women shouldn't be silenced because they're women - nor should men be given platforms just because they're men. We all deserve a chance to be heard.
As a feminist who's not a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist), I'd also get behind the argument that trans and nonbinary people also deserve a chance to be heard.
These things are true, but they're not enough on their own to explain why I've gone to the trouble of creating a business around helping people to get their message out through writing.
My why: The powerful, but not pretty answer
Laudable though fighting for others may be, it's rarely enough to motivate us to show up in our businesses day after day, week after week, even when we'd really rather just hide under the duvet.
I'm passionate about helping people, mostly (but not exclusively) female-identifying people, to find and use their voices to get their message out because I was silenced for too long.
Like most women who grew up when and where I did, there were systemic, cultural forces working to silence me, but looking back, I didn't start letting them until I was 17.
Before I go on, I should say that if reading about medical cruelty, violence, or rape is going to be triggering for you, stop reading here. I won't go into great detail, but for those who have suffered as I have, even a hint can be a problem.
When I was growing up, if someone told me I couldn't do something, I proved them wrong.
When I was 12, my first band director told me my mouth was the wrong shape for playing flute and I'd never be any good - not only did I get a seat in the first honour band I auditioned for, my first degree is in music with an emphasis on flute performance.
When I was 16, my English teacher told me I'd never learn to write well - you see how that turned out.
There's not a big, defining moment in my 17th year that explains how I was silenced, but rather an accumulation of unconnected events over the years that made me doubt my own experiences. In roughly chronological order, they are as follows.
I dated a not very nice boy who got tired of being told I wasn't ready. The last time I did, he said he could make me. I told him I'd report the rape, that word offended him and he tried to hit me, I moved, and he broke his hand on the dashboard of the car. As his hand broke, our relationship ended and something broke inside me - not because of the loss of the boy. He was clearly not worth that. But because I'd finally seen first hand how truly awful the world could be.
In the following years I was repeatedly told by GPs and consultants that I was a liar, a crazy woman, or both. Why? Because they didn't recognise what I now know was neuropathic itching caused by the MS that wouldn't be diagnosed for another decade. Women with conditions like MS often have to fight against sceptical medics for a decade or more before diagnosis.
Things got worse when I started grad school. I found myself in a new state and a new medical system. In that system, to see any doctor, I had to get a referral from the most sadistic nurse I've ever had the misfortune of meeting. My mistreatment at her hands ranged from medical neglect to assault.
Like most predators, she was very careful to choose targets who didn't have the wherewithal to fight back. Even when I pushed back on the worst of her neglect (she didn't want to treat my autoimmune thyroid disease despite the unambiguous test results and crippling symptoms), I didn't realise that my treatment at her hands for years was nothing short of criminal.
Years of gaslighting left me unable to trust my experience of the world.
Enter another awful man. We'd been out a few times and one night he brought me dinner (fast food takeaway). He thought that entitled him to sex. I pushed him off before he finished and spent the next several months convincing myself that it couldn't be rape. He didn't finish - and clearly the male orgasm is the defining feature of rape. How fucked up is that?
These experiences along with the countless indignities that go along with being in academia left me unable to really express myself. I could report what others had said and draw connections between them, but I couldn't really express myself in any meaningful way.
What does all of this have to do with my why? Everything.
I want to help others to find and use their voices because I know what it is to have your voice taken from you.
Getting my voice back
I've had my voice back for some time now; it came back gradually as I put time and physical distance between me and the horrors of my past. I haven't used my voice to articulate this particular story before now, but I regularly use it to share other sorts of stories. Stories about how to make writing easier and faster. Stories about why banning books is wrong. And more.
Getting your voice back doesn't have to mean getting to a point that you share your deeply personal story as I've done in a condensed form here. It can mean that, but it doesn't have to.
Getting your voice back, fighting back from the silence, means believing you have a right to take up space and to be heard in this world. That's what I want for my clients. All of them, whether they're writing blogs, books, or both, have messages that the world needs to hear and they need to share. That's what makes fighting back from the silence worth it. That's my why.