sunflower, amesbury, ma, 2008, www.carolineallen.com
I keep coming across the theme of how women hide their intelligence as writers. Again and again this theme has come up with me and my own writing and with the clients I serve.
Where are you hiding? That’s the question I would ask every writer. What wisdom do you have that you’re not showing in your writing? What truth are you hiding? I’m not just talking about hiding abuses of childhood…that is a big one…but also about hiding our intelligence, our passion, our love. We tone ourselves down. We hide our wisdom.
A few of the clients I coach have just about finished the rough drafts of their memoir or novels. It’s been a beautiful process of dynamic interaction between us for many months. When you finish a rought draft of a book, you start to look back for the predominant themes of your work. As Stephen King notes in his excellent book On Writing, you don’t figure out your themes beforehand; you write your story and see afterwards what themes reared their gorgeous heads, consciously or unconciously.
As my clients explore their themes, what I find is how much these themes can be deepened. We water the themes down on first draft and have to dive in and deepen them. We have to draw on our organic truth, our wisdom, our deep intelligence. How difficult this is when we’ve been told to dumb down all our lives. How can we revisit the work and not pull the punches. How can we be the deep souls we really are in our writing?
Watching myself as I deepened the themes of my novel, went in and REALLY told the truth of what I thought, and counseling clients on digging into their themes, I realized what was going on. As women, we’ve been taught for so long to hide our intelligence. I’m not just talking about brain intelligence, I’m referring to wisdom, to what we know to be the truth of the world, of interpersonal relationships, of universal issues like death, love, rebirth, the list goes on and on.
We all must learn the art of contemplation of truth telling to be the best writers we can be, to fulfill our soul’s contract, to be the artists we came onto this planet to be.
Sometimes as women and writers we have to excavate this intelligence. Or is it love? Am I talking about intelligence or love here?
I spoke to a client this week about writing about what you love…about how hard it is to really open up to what you love, to really write it and get it. I don’t mean the obvious list. I love my children. I love nature. I mean deeply — what do you love?
I’ll give you an example. I’m teaching visual art to some kindergarten kiddies next week. The teacher and I thumbed through picture books I’m going to use and the teacher was engrossed and fascinated with the book on reptiles and I couldn’t get enough of the book on ancient Rome. We were both looking at something we love.
When a novel, essay, short story or memoir feels shallow, I know the writer needs to look without judgement at what the story is trying to say, then to get in and dig deeper, find the soul place, the cracked open place, find the universal truth and love. They need to come out of hiding, to speak their love.