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Stream of Consciousness Series, from acrylic base to “rough draft”, a new unfinished triptych called “Neptune”. www.carolineallen.com

As part of ongoing healing work I do around my visual art, I have been repeatedly advised to think of my doodles as valid to my voice, as relevant to my voice as an artist as the more “professional” pieces I create.

I’ve been doodling since I was a little girl. I used to daily fill a big piece of paper with black marker. I’d doodle every inch, with faces, eyeballs, baseballs, mini cityscapes, pencils. When I was in 5th grade, a teacher submitted one to a statewide competition and I won a ribbon. A ribbon for doodling!!

Recently, I found myself in my new art studio looking through every drawer and storage bin for every doodle I’d ever painted, sketched, torn and cut. I’m sort of obsessive, or perhaps just blessed with a great amount of energy, but I’ll cook and doodle, watch a movie and doodle, work with clients on the phone and doodle, sit on the can and doodle. I’m doodling while i do this blog! LOL.

Anywho in the studio, I took blue tack and put almost every doodle on the wall. Just being surrounded by them is changing my understanding of myself as artist.

For at least a year, I’d been holding onto three flat boxes someone had given me that I wanted to use for a triptych. Finally, after 12 months, I painted them orange for a base coat. Months later, I took up a bucket of house paint and slopped on a dribble. I’m doing a series of paintings called stream of consciousness where I dribble house paint, and stare at the lines for hours and play with what images appear.

Months after I first did the dribble, today that is, I found myself painting in an ocean scene of fish, mermaid and the god Neptune. (Neptune had earlier visited me in my dreams in all his oceanic wisdom.)

I’m as fascinated as a writer with voice as I am as a visual artist. How can I cultivate my deep authentic writing voice? How can I cultivate true authentic eccentric voice in my writing clients? What IS a person’s voice vs the voice that has been indoctrinated by school and society?

Because I’ve been writing professionally since I was 18 years old, I’m lucky to have visual art as a recent artform so I can remember what it’s like to be new at something. How can I find my voice as a visual artist and not get too beaten down by all the graduate school artists who sometimes think abstract artists are doing it wrong? I had to take a break from going to group life drawing sessions. I deeply enjoy sketching nudes, reveling artistically in the gorgeous human form, but so many other artists kept trying to tell me I was doing it ‘wrong’ that I started to shut down. So instead of shutting down, I packed up my charcoal, gummy eraser and sketchpad and said: Goodbye. Sayorana. See ya, wouldn’t wanta be ya! I’m hoping soon to hire nude models for private sketching sessions in my studio.

How do you explore your authentic voice as a writer and keep your edge while trying to improve the elegance and sophistication of your writing so that it is professional enough to get published?

I’m reading every “how to write fiction” book I can get my hands on right now, and just came across this in James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure:

Passion is important for your writer’s soul, and, almost always, your ultimate success. …I believe we writers must nourish and nurture our individuality. Only then do we rise above the commonplace.

I chose to stay away from graduate school for fiction writers for this very reason. I was accepted at the UW Fiction program a few years ago and as I went to readings by students in the program to decide if I wanted to go, I grew witlessly bored by what seemed to me to be a standardized graduate school voice. I chose instead to teach myself, but most importantly to allow myself to BE MYSELF in my writing. I gave up a strong international journalism career because of the standardization of storytelling. Why would I then pay several grand for another institution to standardize my voice?

How can you cultivate your eccentric voice as a writer? What IS your voice? It’ll take a while to find out, but it’s well worth the effort. May I suggest stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning when the subconscious mind is active, when the editor/judgmental mind is still asleep?

Later when you’re revising, you just have to make sure you don’t lose the magic. It takes some practice. At first, all writers edit out some of the primal power. You just got to keep trying, keep going.

If you’re worried about getting published, especially now when the industry is financially constrained and difficult to get into, nothing will get you more noticed than simply being who you really are. Live your very essence, put the flesh and vibration of your very soul on the page. I HATE people who get competitive with me and my writing. I HATE teaching classes where the students get competitive with each other. Because deep down I know you should only compete with yourself. You should put all that energy into competing to see if you can be YOU. It’s not that easy. It can take a lifetime to find out who you really are.

It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child. — Picasso

I’m a writing coach. For a free initial consultation, please email me at carolineallen@aol.com. www.artofstorytellingonline.com.

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