...and a whole lot of soul to write anything. An article, a poem, a novel. You can tell when an author has put all of himself into his work. It's there, lying on the page, a beating pulse that can be felt through each word.
Everywhere you turn, authors and editors, agents and "those who know" admonish us to write what we know, to find our voice, to pour ourselves into our stories. It's so obvious and yet so hard to do. Why?
I think I have an answer. If I'm wrong (or way out in left field...it wouldn't be the first time that's happened!), please forgive me. I believe it's because we are conditioned to concern ourselves with what others think. The thought of rejection, the thought of "what if THEY don't like it", is enough to drive even the most talented artist into the underground.
I can remember being free. I remember as a child playing with abandon, writing stories that made sense to my five year old brain, stories where I could correctly spell "tyrannosaurus" but misspelled "island". I remember laughing, dreaming, scheming, telling jokes, making others laugh in class and choir practice.
Then something happened. I'm not sure if there's an actual date and time to it; I can look back and see several things that contributed. Something shifted and I was made to feel like my ideas were "wrong", "dumb", "punishable". Nothing horrible, mind you! I wasn't trying to sacrifice the neighbors goats or anything. Somewhere along the way, I lost the freedom to be myself and ever since then, I've been trapped behind a wall of "what ifs" and "no one will understand".
Art is subjective (at least that's what they told me). I've taken art classes as an adult and had "professionals" belittle my ideas and tell me they just don't "get it". I've watched people open their veins on stage, screen and page and marvel at their audacity, their bizarreness, their courage. Perhaps they never had that teacher put down their ideas. Perhaps they never were made to feel left out and betrayed. Or maybe...just maybe...they don't care.
What? Don't care? How callous! We're supposed to care. We (especially we women) are supposed to make everyone else comfortable, sacrificing our time, our dreams, our cares for those we love. Yes. And no. We are to put others first. We are to reach out and help. We are to go out of our way to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, minster to the hurting, lonely and sick. But how can we do these things if we don't take care of ourselves first? A sick nurse is certainly not someone you want caring for you when you're ill.
This care and concern, while a noble and righteous thing, gets misconstrued in our modern society. It seems we teeter to one of two ends: care so much we shun ourselves and sacrifice our very health and well being in order to become a saint (or worse, a martyr). Or we guard ourselves so fiercely, let no one in, and alienate everyone in order to protect number one. Where's the balance? Simple. It's right there, in the middle, where your heart is aching for you to reside.
When i look at my stories, I see fantastic beasts, imagined lands, strong characters with even stronger flaws. I see mystery and murder, fantasy and magic. Do I dare see a message that someone may need? That someone has been longing to discover?
Inside all of us is a voice that is wanting to be heard. We push it, shove it, water it down. Why? No one will get it. It's not "the right way". It's too bizarre, too "out there". Of course, there are technical rules we must follow, grammatical dos and don'ts, regulations to follow in order to submit a query and grasp the attention of the right agent. Beyond that, however, the door is wide open. There's no filter. We are the ones who put on the blinders, get out the sieve and pour our hearts into them, discarding what we deem "odd", "unimportant" or "not recognizable".
Get out a pen and paper. Yes, yes, you know, those poor, sacrificed trees and ink filled piece of plastic. What's that voice inside telling you? You know. The tiny voice that's been so pushed away, crowded out by overstimulation and self-deprecation. Write what it tells you. It may be a few words. It may be a torrent of adjectives and nouns, verbs and run on sentences. Don't edit, don't filter, just write. When you're finished, you can pick through. You could find that you just needed to let our some pent up emotions, worries, fears. Then again, you may find that story that you've been dying to tell has finally come free of it's tethers. If that's the case, don't put it back in the box. Let it roam free. Let it take wings and soar around and around, higher and higher. Don't be afraid of where it's going. Let it lead. Don't try and direct it like a child on the beach tries to harness a kite. Allow your feet to be lifted off the sand and give in to the wild, tempestuous wind that is your brilliance. Frightening? You betcha. Necessary? More than you know.