Nude Seattle, oil bars on paper, 2005, carolineallen.com
When I coach writers, the single greatest impediment to their writing is childhood trauma around their writing, around reading books, around telling stories or speaking truth. The single greatest aid to exploding open an individual’s innate creative force is digging up, writing about and sharing these childhood stories.
I can teach tenchiques for characterization, plot, setting and theme. I can teach grammar, and sentence and paragraph structure, but none of these will speak to the passion of the writing, the depth of the language, the creative voice behind storytelling. The only way to get to this passion is by excavating it, by delving deep into childhood situations that crushed that creative voice, by reading these out loud.
A teacher’s brutal criticism, a parent’s jealousy, the silence a father demands in a traumatized household – all of these squelch our voice, our truth, our passion and the simple joy of telling our little girl stories, and our grown up stories too.
I call this phase for writers excavating the voice. We have to dig down, brush off the relics of our past, fit them together, fashion a truth, put them on display…without communicating them to others, they remain hidden.
I believe these childhood stories act like a wet blanket on top of the passion in our guts. You write them and share them and you’ll find an explosion of the creative force afterwards…you’ll be more productive, a better writer, more truthful, more real. Your art will flourish.
I taught a workshop in Seattle this past weekend and we began with an exercise in excavating the voice. We remembered, wrote and shared a significant memory from our childhoods around reading or writing. A spontaneous healing seemed to happen for every member of the class and lingered this week. For me an ugly, puss-filled wound was lacerated, sending dark matter up into my throat, up the back of my neck. It was real. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was real. It was honest. It wasn’t easy, but I prefer it OUT rather than IN, so I was happy to see it happen. At times, I felt like I was losing my mind; I was dizzy with my own deep spiritual revelations. When I’m most creative, I see the world as if it were a Picasso painting, a nose where an eye should be, a shoulder protruding from a thigh. Nothing is linnear.
When I coach people and they have this similar dizziness, I tell them: A mind is a wonderful thing to lose. We’ve structured our thought process in ways that are no longer useful. The buildings of our mind begin to tumble. We have to go crazy to live.
The more we avoid exploring these difficult childhood stories, the more we are shut down, the less present we are in the present, the more dull and depressed we become. The wound festers and doesn’t heal. Allowing ourselves to explore the truth, to expose it, to let go and go mad if we need to, allows us to keep opening heart and soul in this crazy world.