Writing With a Loss for Words

19 October 2023

Jackie Hryncewich is a Senior Consultant at The Athena Advisors. Here she writes honestly about the feeling of being at a loss for words in the face of world events, and the importance of human kindness.

When I began to brainstorm ideas for this blog post, I bounced between subject matters related to management, performance metrics, and nonprofit sector trends. I figured these themes are relevant to The Athena Advisors’ audience and I know a good bit about each one. Perhaps, I could produce some stunning insight if I committed to a theme and diligently researched it.

I wrote. I deleted my words. I shut down my computer. Maybe I should write about writer’s block.

As the deadline approached, I continued to stare at a blank page. Thankfully, a long weekend was on its way, and I would have time to devote my attention to becoming a subject matter expert. I would write with clear authority on a topic and convince the reader that I had it all under control the whole time.

But I was distracted.

News of the horrific violence in the Middle East was everywhere. I tried to disassociate from current events so I could meet my deadline. I tried desperately to remain productive despite the headlines, but along with so many people around the world, I was grappling with heartbreak, fear, and uncertainty.

Suddenly, this blog post (along with everything else on my to-do list) seemed hopelessly trivial. A blog post about performance metrics and business management felt wrong. I could not put a piece of work out into the world that did not acknowledge this moment in history or the unfathomable human suffering that exists around the globe every day.

And still, I was at a loss because I didn’t know what to say. I don’t have any answers or stunning insights. How do you write a blog post with a loss for words and a heavy heart?

I consulted a text that boarders on sacred to me, a collection of essays called The Marginalian by Maria Popova. I wandered through her writing until I found a reflection on the creative power of uncertainty and the generative force of not-knowing.

Popova writes, “We choose whether to be blunted or honed when we choose whether to hide behind false certitudes… or to thrust ourselves into the open air of not-knowing, naked and vulnerable, and wear our goosebumps like a constellation of tiny medals awarded us for living with courageous curiosity.”

Bolstered by this permission to not know, I paradoxically stumbled upon a truth. I know one thing for certain—how we treat each other matters. How we treat ourselves matters. How we treat our family members, our neighbors, our colleagues—how we treat strangers and those we deem different from ourselves—it matters.

It matters more than subject matter expertise or having all the answers. It matters more than writing the perfect blog post.

Here at The Athena Advisors, we treat each other with dignity, compassion, and respect. While our values include a commitment to professional excellence, they also include a celebration of teamwork, a dedication to mentorship, and a passion for social justice. We take time to acknowledge one another’s success and we hold space for each other during challenging times.

In this moment, despite the grief, fear, and uncertainty in the world—I know I am in the right place at The Athena Advisors. It is here that I find strength in “not-knowing” and certainty that the work we do matters.