What if I don't have anything to say?

14 April 2019

Some words about feeling like you don't have words, from Naomi Obeng

NSDF is all about ideas bouncing off rooftops, through doors, over stages, through workshops, discussions and past festgoers lost in the streets of Leicester. Right? It’s about the ideas, they say. About the conversation. About the chat into the night. That famous chat in the bar (which, I mean, find me in the Noffice with a cup of tea and a packet of dark chocolate digestives, okay? We can share the biscuits but bring a mug maybe).

But ‘what if, what if…’, I sense a couple of you at the back who have not raised your hands because you, like me, are wondering the very thing that is preventing you from asking the very thing that is on your minds: ‘what if I don’t have anything to say?’

Outrageous. Unheard of. Nothing to say? Preposterous. At NSDF? What are you here for then? Feel free to NSDF-off out the back of Curve and onto the next train home. 

No one ever said that. And not just because NSDF-off is a very laboured comeback (though, if it does catch on, you heard it here first, I charge commission xoxoxo). 

I remember last year getting to a point midweek where I just thought: ‘God. Maybe I’ve just thought quite a bit and now I’ve run out.’ For someone who was there to think in black on white (sometimes white on black, oooh) through my fingers every night it was a bit…scary. All these shows saying things that I’m sure are really very Interesting and Important and I just, can’t, respond, right now. I don’t know what to say. How is everyone else saying things? With their mouths even? How do I get mine to do that?

A good thing about having a cup of tea is that in between blowing on it as if that helps to cool it down, feeling it pleasantly scald your fingertips and the sipping leaving your mouth otherwise engaged, you don’t have to talk. You can just listen. (You can do that without the tea, granted, but the tea’s a soothing anchor.)

The thoughts, the comments, the intentions – it’s fine if they’re offered by other people, let them swirl around you. You don’t have to have something to say every second of the day, or any second of any day. Just because you’re not talking doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing it all in your unique way. I find a whole lot more fuel for speech from listening than I ever would from talking anyway.