Breaking the Blogging Mold

I always struggle with introducing my blog, because there’s not quite a category I fit into.  I don’t know the first thing about fashion or makeup, my DIY’s aren’t anything anyone would want to duplicate, I can’t cook much more than mac n’ cheese and bang bang cauliflower, and HTML is a foreign language I don’t even know how to say “hello” in.  So when I read that we’re supposed to have an elevator pitch for our blog – what we’re about and why – I struggle.

Generally speaking, I guess you’d call me a lifestyle blogger, but  I try not to write too much about my life just for the sake of writing about it.  You’ll probably never find an “if we had coffee” post on She is Fierce, but what you will find are feminist articles, personal essays, creative writing, and thoughtful discussions about inspiration and current events.  And if this mixed bunch of writing that I don’t know how to classify says anything about blogging, it’s that there’s room for everyone in the blogging world.

breaking the blogging mold

Be Yourself

This is advice you hear a lot in the blogging community, but that’s because it’s important.  Most of us ended up here, writing a blog, because it’s something we wanted to do; whether because we love writing, want to connect with other people, or because we feel we have something to share.  Don’t forget about that once you’ve been blogging for a while and have found a ton of really successful blogs out there.  Don’t let your reasons for being here change because someone else’s reasons have gotten results.

Blog What You Know

If you aren’t into fashion, and cooking a delicious three-course meal is the last thing on your mind, don’t blog about those things just because other bloggers do.  Blog about what makes sense to you, and what you enjoy talking about – I bet there are other people out there who like the same things, and would love to read a blog post about them.
If what you know is how to take care of birds, then that’s what you should blog about.  Or if you’re more well-versed in politics, then there are plenty of uninformed voters out there who would love to hear what you have to say about the candidates.  Maybe what you know the most about is something we’ve never even heard of, and that’s all the more reason you should write about it.

We Don’t All Fit Into a Mold

There are all kinds of blogs out there: fashion, design, travel, marriage, gourmet cooking… But we don’t all fit into those specific categories.  Even “lifestyle” can be restrictive if what you have to offer isn’t funny stories about your day-to-day life.

But the great thing about blogging is that you don’t have to fit into a mold.  There’s space for everyone, and if what you have to say doesn’t fit into a category, then make your own and figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it!

Get Good at Knowing What You Write

If you don’t fit into a category that most people know, that makes it harder to tell potential new readers why they should stop by.  Know what it is that you love talking about, and get good at telling people about that!  If you were talking to your best friend or your mom, what would you tell them your blog is about?  How would you describe it?  Figure that out, and remember it for the next time you get asked what your blog is about!

So what type of blog do you write?  And if there isn’t a specific category for what you have to say, how do you break that mold?

This post first appeared as a guest post on The Charming

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Why “I Don’t Want Kids” is not Your Cue to Say “Yes You Do”

I can’t remember the first time I was asked how many children I want.  But I can remember the last time, and the several-hundred times before that, by every family member and most friends.  The question is a close-second only to “so are you seeing anyone yet,” which is of course, another favorite.

As a woman, you can probably easily answer the question of which of your friends most want children, because it’s a conversation you’ve all had several times.  Family members, friends, and sometimes people you hardly know all want to know how many children you’ll one day pop out, whether or not you’ve expressed any interest in doing just that.  And as someone who can say I personally don’t want kids, my response usually elicits plenty of well-intentioned insinuations that I simply don’t know what I want.

don't want kids

But what if your future husband wants kids?

My favorite thing about this question is the idea that I’ll never have any sort of an important conversation with my husband-to-be before our wedding day.  I don’t know about you, but personally – if a relationship is getting serious – conversations about marriage, where we want to live, and yes, children, will come up.  If by the time I’m ready to get married I still don’t want children, I can guarantee that’s a conversation I’ll have had with my boyfriend; and if he does want children, there’s a good chance we won’t be getting married.

And while I understand that love is a thing, and sometimes you don’t fall in love with the person you’d like to, I also know that certain things about my life are incredibly important.  Of course there are some things you have to sacrifice in a marriage -where to eat dinner, what to do on Friday night, even where you live.  But something as big as having children – something that is going to completely change your life – is a deal-breaker for most people, including myself.  I can tell you with absolute certainty that I will not marry a man who desperately wants children if I desperately do not.  And if you pose that question one more time, I’m going to flip the coin and point out that maybe you’ll fall for a man who doesn’t want children.

You’ll change your mind.

This has always been my favorite (most infuriating) argument, because it’s as though I’m a 5-year-old who can’t decide what she wants to dress up as for Halloween this year.  Maybe you’re right – maybe I will change my mind some day down the line.  But that’s my mind to change, and as someone who’s been told this more times than she can count, take it from me that it is disgustingly and humiliatingly patronizing to be immediately told that your opinion is invalid because it’ll change at some point in the next 10 years.

I am NOT a child.  I do not need for your immediate response to my choice about my life to be “well, you’ll change your mind and agree with me one day.”  You can not know that.  “My former co-worker’s friend’s niece’s daughter used to say she didn’t want kids and now she has triplets!” is not proof that I will change my mind.  It is proof that people change and evolve and sometimes, that means that certain major life decisions change.

Well what if you…you know…get pregnant?

Based on other comments I get, you’d think these people are of the opinion that I am myself still a child.  Which is funny, considering that they’re trying to convince me to get pregnant and have babies.  But seriously, do we live in a dystopian (or Tea Party dominated) society where birth control, condoms, and abortion are all illegal?

While I understand that no form of birth control and safety precautions are an absolute sure thing, I can say with a pretty damn high level of certainty that if I don’t want to get pregnant, and I take the necessary precautions, I won’t get pregnant.  Again, just because your co-workers sister’s best friend’s cousin got pregnant at 22 when she didn’t want children, does not mean the same thing will happen to me.  And no, I don’t want to hear your statistics about all the unwanted pregnancies in America.

But thanks for the vote of confidence.  Or was that just a mild threat?

Isn’t that kind of selfish?

To not bring another unwanted child into a world filled with unwanted and unhoused children?  I don’t think so, but maybe we have different definitions of selfish. Doesn’t this sentiment kind of suggest that a woman’s only purpose is to have children, and that if she chooses not to, that’s the “wrong” choice? Believe it or not, I don’t find making my own choices about my own life to be selfish in the least bit, especially considering that this particular decision is not effecting anybody but me.

So what about you? Do you want kids, and if not – what fun responses have you heard to that decision?

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Being an Introvert : Why I Struggle with My Personality

being an introvert

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an introvert – that I like my alone time, don’t mind Friday nights in, and probably watch too much Netflix.  It’s a part of my personality that I’ve always struggled with – battling between wanting to want to go out, but instead wanting to do nothing but stay in and read, watch Netflix, and blog.

My being an introvert is something that I know there’s nothing wrong with.  If you told me you were an introvert, I’d tell you all the great things about it.  But when it comes to myself, I sometimes feel as though I could be – want to be – “fixed.”  As though I take it to a new, defective level and that one day, that joke my friends make about me being a crazy cat lady will come true and my only friends will be furry and unable to speak.  As though it’s something that, with the right words or a certain level of practice, I can shed and become the social butterfly type that seems to thrive in our society.  As though my being an introvert is merely a stage before I get to who I am.

It’s one thing to want to accept your personality – to know all the amazing positives that come with who you are – and trust me, I do.  I know that there are things I’m great at, and that it’s most likely because of my being an introvert that I thrive in those areas.  And I know I wouldn’t want to give those things up – my love of reading, and my ability to write as well as I do.

But it’s difficult to accept the downfalls, the desire to stay in on a Friday night up until 10PM when you hear everyone outside your window on their way to the bars or a party.  The inability to small-talk, to the point where you’d rather tell a near-stranger a barely-in-context story about yourself and your life just because it’s something to say.  The complete fear that when you meet someone new, they’re going to hate you; and constantly needing reassurance that your friends don’t wish you’d just go away.  Those are the parts of being an introvert that I don’t want to know about myself, that I wish would go away.

It’s something I struggle with, and something I want to accept.  But at the same time, I want to be better – a more sociable, easy-to-talk-to person.  And I don’t know how to reconcile those two desires, because they are so opposing to one another.

It’s something I don’t know if I’ll ever stop struggling with, but I’d like to start somewhere, to try to acknowledge the great things about myself, like my ability to get a job done quickly, and well; my writing-skills; my love of a new book or a blank page; or a challenge in my work.  My abillity to take a to-do list a mile long, and have it finished by the end of the work day.  These are all great pieces of my being an introvert, pieces that I know I may not have if it weren’t for my personality.  Pieces that I’d like to try to focus on the next time someone asks about the weather, and I respond with an anecdote about the power going out at my apartment last year because of the snow.

So what about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? And either way, is it something you struggle with?

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Building Your Blogging Community : Comment Etiquette

Build Your Blogging Community

 

I talk a lot about how important community is to this blog.  When I come here each day, it’s with something that I hope is going to make you think, and want to start a conversation.  Without community, I don’t know what this whole blogging thing would even be like.

There are plenty of ways to help build your blogging community, but one of the most important options is by commenting on posts you enjoy, and responding to comments on your own posts.  As important as this is though, there are some misconceptions out there about how you should go about commenting.

Only Comment if You Have Something to Say

It’s absolutely important to comment on blogs if you’re contributing to the conversation.  But you know the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”  Well, I’m going to change that up a bit to say “if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t say anything at all.”
As much as I love talking to my readers and responding to comments on this little space, it’s really hard to come up with a response to “I’m your newest follower! Follow me back?” or “Great post!”  So instead, try to say something like “I really love this post..” and then mentioning a relevant experience you’ve had, or how the post has been helpful for you.  There are all kinds of great things you can contribute to the conversation started by a blog post!

Don’t Ask for Followers

That’s just etiquette.  Seriously – please don’t be that spammy blogger, because you’re not contributing to anything; you’re just spamming people’s feeds, and making everything about you and your blog.

If You Don’t Agree, then Tell Us!

Remember that adage I just mentioned about not saying anything if you don’t have something nice to say?  Well, forget I said it because I don’t agree.  I’m not saying to be rude (please – be nice! We’re trying to make friends here, after all.), but if a blogger has posted something particularly controversial, you’re allowed to tell them if you disagree with their opinion.

After all, a difference of opinions is what fuels great conversations in the first place!

Respond

If you want your readers to leave you a little note, and you’re looking for ways to grow your blog and your community, responding to comments absolutely MUST be at the top of your list!  A conversation is a two-way street, and that can’t happen if you’re leaving your readers with unanswered questions after they comment.

Use Disqus

For a long time, I used the Blogger comment system on She is Fierce, which meant that I wasn’t able to respond to a lot of the lovely comments I got on my posts, because they were coming from no-reply-commenters.  That alone was the reason I finally made the switch to Disqus, and I cannot recommend it enough!

I had a little trouble installing the system on my blog, and the customer support team at Disqus was fantastic at helping me to resolve it, both via Twitter and Email! Since installing it, I’ve seen more of my readers interacting with one another in the comments, and I’ve been able to respond to everyone!

So what about you?  What would you tell a blogger looking to grow their community?

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Why I Love Blogging

For years, ever since starting my first blog back in high-school, I’ve found myself gravitating towards this community even after several failed attempts.  There was always something bringing me back – maybe the ability to share my writing with the world, maybe the feeling of knowing that this is something I have to do each day… But whatever it is, that feeling has brought me to this point.  And over these five years, I’ve found that there’s a lot to love about blogging.

Community                                                                                 
You hear it mentioned all the time as you’re reading blogs, but the community truly is one of the greatest thing about this little space.  I’ve gotten to know some incredible women through this blog, and every time my e-mail tells me I’ve gotten a new comment sharing someone’s opinion, I smile like it’s the first time.

I’ve only been writing on this blog since April, and already I feel like I’ve gotten to know some wonderful women.  I can’t imagine how much more this community will grow over the next several months and years.

Diversity                                                                                   

According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 20 million Americans write a blog – and that was in 2009, so imagine how many more there are today.  And every one of those 20 million people have a different story to tell – a different background, education, experience, and lessons to be taught.

Each time I find a new space I enjoy reading, it’s exciting to learn where they’re from, what they believe, what they do, and how they feel about the things I have strong opinions on. (read: reasons you should have an About Me page)
 
I truly believe that blogging can be a form of travel without ever leaving your home – getting to know all different people from all different backgrounds and countries, all with opinions and beliefs different from your own.  Just like reading new books and watching a good movie, reading blogs teaches me a new outlook and point of view than the one I call my own.  

Learning                                                                                          

At any moment in this blogging community, there are a thousand things waiting to be learned.  Not only the things that other bloggers have to teach you through articles, how-to’s, DIYs, and videos, but also the things we all still have to learn together.  The lessons to help us make our blogs better every day.  
 
Each day that I’m here, writing another post and sharing it with the world, I’m learning more about how we as humans work, and how to grow this space.  

 
So what about you?  What are your favorite things about blogging?
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On Still Needing Feminism in 2014

still needing feminism



In the couple of years since I’ve become more outspoken about feminism and equality, I’ve dealt with a lot of negative comments.  I lot of insults, suggestions that I need a boyfriend, and just plain ridiculous arguments.

There’s one comment that seems to come up more than others though, and to me it’s the most worrisome because it’s not a hurled insult or an illogical argument.  It’s a quiet statement; something that the person actually believes.  And the fact that so many people do feel this way is both sad and terrifying.

“Why do we even need this anymore! We’re all equal already!”
 
This is something that the person truly believes when they say it – stated bluntly and as fact, as though I’ve suggested that women still aren’t allowed to vote and how could I truly believe such a thing.  As though voting was the only inequality women have had to overcome, and now that this particular wrong has been righted, there’s no longer anything to worry about.
 
It worries me because this delusion – this belief that things are equal when in fact they aren’t, or at least that the way things are is the right way, is why inequality exists.  This inaction because of the belief that nothing needs to be acted upon is why women still make $.77 for every $1.00 a man makes.  Why after ten sexual assaults on my college campus in one semester, the overwhelming response was still a warning directed solely at women: “please be careful about how much you drink and make sure you don’t walk home alone at night.” It’s the reason why, in four years of college, I was given three tubes of pepper spray and a taser, and my self-defense class junior year did not have a single male student.  It’s the cause of cases like Steubenville, which I can promise you was not an isolated incident
 
This bizarre ignorance about the inequality in America is why, at nearly 23 years old, I am still told that “one day you’ll change your mind” every time I say I don’t want children.  Because despite being a fully-functioning adult, my “feminine obligation” to have children and dedicate my life to them still trumps my actual plans and desires.  In 2014, nearly every romantic comedy or “female” oriented television show, book, or movie deals with the question of whether or not women can have it all, because for men, it is expected that they will have it “all”. 
 
Saying feminism isn’t necessary is like suggesting that despite the flickering lamp in your bedroom, you don’t need a new lightbulb.  It’s suggesting that over half the human population isn’t important enough to need or want equal rights and fair treatment, because this false sense of equality has been built into our media, our news, our religions to the point that it becomes difficult to separate reality from fiction anymore.  
 
So why do you think Feminism is still important?  Or if you don’t think we need it anymore, why?
 
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Finding Honesty in Blogging

We’ve all heard it before – blogging brings out the best in us.  These blogs we spend time reading each day are written through rose-tinted glasses, and that’s absolutely on purpose.  Nobody wants to tell a world full of people they don’t know the nitty gritty not-so-great details of their lives, and I know I’m definitely guilty of that.


Like I’m sure most of you, I’m not entirely comfortable with a tell-all – something I’m so good at in life, where I tell my friends everything (whether or not they really want to hear it) and am almost entirely incapable of keeping secrets about my own life.

Maybe it’s that for me, this place isn’t a diary…at least not the traditional hide-under-your-bed-with-a-lock-on-it kind of diary.  For me, this place is one where I come to share, not my life, but my writing, my inspiration, my attempts at what I hope is art.

I want to be honest, to tell you all the truth, but only part of it.  It’s not that I’m perfect, or that I want to pretend I am.  Nothing about my life could be construed as “perfect.”  I’ve struggled with anxiety, doubt, failure.  But that’s not what I come here for.

Maybe it’s just that, for me at least, this blog is a place to build a community of people with ideals, with beliefs, with independence and moral value running through them.  To me, the details of my every-day-life don’t necessarily factor in, and most days, they don’t have to.

I don’t want you to think that I’ve got everything figured out (because I absolutely don’t), or that this is the image I want to project.  I just want different things to come from this blog than the details of my life.  I don’t want to lie here (and I don’t), but maybe telling the absolute every-single-detail truth doesn’t need to happen to ensure I’m not lying.

And if I’m being honest – which I truly want to be – I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  So what about you – what’s the most important thing to you in blogging?

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How to Build a Community Using Twitter

When I first started blogging, social media didn’t even factor into my plan.  They seemed like two completely different subjects, and the latter was one I had no interest in.  And the most ridiculous, at least in my opinion, was Twitter.  In fact, my friend and I who co-wrote my first blog regularly made fun of it – “I’m getting in the shower, I’m drying off, I’m brushing my teeth…” we’d joke with one another.  Little did I know that in a few years, Twitter would be my favorite social media site, and the number-one traffic source for my blog.

Over the last few years since I made my first Twitter account, I’ve learned a few things that got me to the point where I check it throughout the day and even have met some of my favorite bloggers, like Marielle and Ashley, through tweets! So today, here are some of the things I’ve done that have made Twitter work for me!

here

Variety

I’ve already mentioned that when Twitter first debuted in the social media world, I thought it was a joke.  We were connected enough already, I didn’t feel like I needed to know any more about your day-to-day business.  But the more I use Twitter, the more I realize that personal posts are one of my favorites.  Especially in lifestyle blogging, we all want to know more about the person behind the screen.

But it’s not just that – Twitter is a tool, and one that I use often.  Most of what I post are links not to my own posts, but to other blogs I love, articles relating to things I blog about, quotes that resonate with me, and information I think would be useful to my followers.

Suffice to say, posts advertising my own blog are a very small portion of what I have to say on Twitter.  It is an amazing resource for new blogs, articles, and information – and making yourself a part of that is a big part of gaining new readers.

 

Interaction

We all talk about how important community is to our blogs, and that doesn’t end with the .com.  In fact, I sometimes think that social media is a much bigger part of that community than your blog is, and Twitter is one of my favorite ways to get that.
A sixth type of Tweet I didn’t mention in the last section are questions.  Each day, I think of the questions I have about blogging – what other people are doing differently, how other bloggers feel about controversial topics in the field, and even some other questions not related to blogging.
This has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my Twitter and subsequently my blog.  Through the questions I’ve posed on Twitter, I’ve started some great conversations, learned that I’m not alone in how I blog, and found new blogs I really enjoy reading…win/win/win, right?

Tag It

Okay – I know they can be intimidating, especially when you see posts built entirely out of them, but Hashtags are the sliced bread of social media.
Especially when you first start Tweeting, and have a following built entirely of your roommate, your high-school best friend, and your cousin’s friend’s boyfriend, hashtags expand your reach.  Another type of tagging I suggest is tagging other people.  My favorites are @FemaleBloggerRT and @BloggersRT
My number one piece of advice here though: make sure it’s relevant.  Nothing makes me crazier than a post with 20 different tags, half of which have nothing to do with the post, and it’s not going to get you the right readers.

 

Regularity

For me, one of the most difficult parts of learning to use Twitter was how often I should post.

I’ve read before that the average “life” of a tweet is less than 20 minutes, meaning that by the time your post has been up for a half hour, it’s already disappeared into the abyss of your followers’ news feeds.  The tips above can help to prolong your Tweet’s life, but not forever, and not always.

I’ve heard that posting every 15 minutes is optimal, but something about that seems way too often for me.  I do make sure to post twice an hour though, so that my lovely little mini-face is never too far from your news feed.

Of course, this can be pretty impossible if you have a life that involves not staring at a computer screen all day, but thankfully sites like Buffer and Hootsuite have made the impossible not only possible, but ridiculously easy.

At the beginning of each day (or the night before, if I’m feeling proactive), I take about 20 minutes to schedule out my tweets for the day: a variety of quotes I find all over the Internet (Pinterest anyone?), blog posts I loved reading, sponsor posts, relevant and timely articles, questions, and of course links to my own posts – both new and archived.    This means that for the rest of the day, it’s much easier to share snippets of my life and things I find funny rather than worrying about when the last time I posted was.

Archive

Everyone’s first thought when they publish a new post is to share it everywhere, but what about in three months? How about a year from now?
Sometimes, the posts that get the most responses are the ones you wrote forever ago and almost forgot about.  Maybe when you wrote it, you didn’t have a big following.  Maybe you didn’t advertise it very well.  Or maybe just freshening it up will bring new readers over to your blog.  Whatever it is, you’ll never know if you don’t give your posts another shot at life!
I mix up my personal-blog tweets each day between that day’s post, and a few of my older posts that I’m particularly proud of and would like to see more conversations on.

So what about you?  Do you do any of these, or did I miss one of your favorites?

 

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On Disconnecting and Just Being

Last night, I left my phone at home and locked the door behind me.  I walked down streets I’d somehow never noticed in my four years living in this town, with nothing but my camera in hand and music in my ears.

And it felt amazing.  I don’t know if it was the walk on a gorgeous summer night cut by the slightest breeze, the weight of my camera in my hand, or being disconnected from Twitter and E-mail and phone calls or texts.  Maybe it was all of it, but the tears I cried walking past my freshman year dorm, and the scratch on my side from wrapping myself around a tree to get the perfect shot…it felt perfect.

Sometimes, I think, it’s important to remember where we came from.  That as wonderful as technology is, it wasn’t always a part of our world – and sometimes, maybe even often, it’s important to put that aside and just be.  Whether it be taking a long bath with a book and some music, going for a walk, or just sitting in the sunshine – we need time away from the television, the computer, and other people.  We need time to just be alone, and ourselves, and fully but not-entirely alert to everything surviving around us.

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The Ocean Inside of Us

I’m on my way into the city to meet up with my cousin for the day, so instead of a full post – I’m leaving you with a repost.  In fact, my very first on this blog.

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There is silence in all of us, in the space between the beats our hearts make, pumping blood throughout our bodies.  It is in the oxygen we breathe in, and in the carbon dioxide we release back into the world, our give and take with the earth all around us.
There is the silence we enforce, in 11th grade classrooms where students are taking the test they have been told can make or break their future, and in churches where we are told that God can only visit if we are quiet and listen for him to arrive.
It is in the convents where Monks have vowed never to speak again, the greatest gift they can think to give to their God, and in the voices of parents who realize that all the love in the world cannot reach their children’s hearts when they need it most.
There is the silence we wish we knew how to break, in the words we do not know how to say as much as we wish we had the courage to scream them for everyone to hear, and in the “I love you’s” we wish we could have said just one more time.  It is in the voices and hearts of 15-year-old girls who have just realized they are in love with their best friend, a sin in the eyes of their parents, even though fall in love while being wholly yourself is the greatest accomplishment of all.
There is the silence we feel while standing over an open grave, our hearts seemingly covered in the same dirt we are tossing onto the coffin that houses our loved ones, and there is silence when we are losing someone important to us not to death, but to our own stubborn mistakes.
It is in every kiss and in the moments we fall in love, and it is there again when our hearts break and we trade kisses for tears.
In September 2001, the whole world grew silent and held their breath while they waited for America to catch hers; and in May 2011 the world grew silent again when people all over America finally found their voices in the words their President addressed the world with, in the bittersweet victory they had been waiting 10 years for.  In the Vietnam War, John McCain and a fellow prisoner of war were punished for the silence they broke between them, trading taps on the wall that separated them from one another.
Silence can serve as the proof we didn’t really want, or as the doubt thrown upon a piece of history we don’t fully understand.  Historians use silence to suggest that something does not have enough historical proof, and parents use it to convey disappointment.  Prison guards use silence to break the souls of a convicted felon, and soldiers use it to break the faith of an enemy they have taken prisoner.
In some families, the silence is unbearable, a waylay between one conversation and the next; in others, it is a way of life, a family heirloom passed from one generation to the next.
There is silence in all of us.  In the same way that water makes up over 50 percent of our bodies, an ocean inside of us all, silence makes up 25 percent of our lives, a cavern of the words we never spoke.
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