Self portrait, oil bar on paper, http://www.carolineallen.com
As a coach, novelist and visual artist, I’m passionate about exploring, excavating, and empowering VOICE. I realized recently that a lot of people are confused by what it means to find your voice as an artist. No, it does not mean that you speak loudly and everyone listens. It does not mean dominating a conversation. For women, it does not mean screaming down all of the people who’ve screamed you down in the past. Finding your authentic voice is an incredible, frightening, liberating, ecstatic, fragile journey, and here’s what it looks like.
Step 1: You start to lose your mind. The mind is a WONDERFUL thing to lose. It’s trapped you in old modes of thought, restricted your energy just to feed the intellect. When you start to expand yourself as an artist or writer or creative person, you activate the right side of your brain. It may have been dormant a long time, so when it starts to come alive again, you can really feel like you’re losing it. You might feel dizzy. Confused. Find it difficult to drive. You may seriously worry you’re losing your mind. Welcome to the beginning of an entirely new paradigm.
Step 2: Enjoy the next stage — FEAR. I’m not joking. Enjoy the panic attacks and flop-sweat night terrors. They’re a sure sign that you’re changing, that you’re opening to creativity and to spirit. The ego has been in control for so long, that when spirit starts to take over, wow does fear rear its ugly head. When I open as a visual artist, I swear I think every siren is someone coming to arrest me. It’s so strong, I have to watch that I don’t go shut myself in a closet and hide. (I suspect this is coming up from a past life, a time when I was arrested for expressing my voice.)
Step 3: You’ll feel like you’re going backwards in your life instead of forward. Opening to spirit, to creativity authentically, means you fall back into your authentic self. So all the plans your ego had to make it big in the world disappear and you find yourself with a simple pencil and a simple blank piece of paper, writing a simple story. And therein lies the glory, in that simplicity. I’ll give you an example: I am painting farm animals, goats and pigs and such. It’s healing the trauma still lodged in my body from butchering animals as a child on a Missouri subsistence farm. I had an idea to partner with a farm animal sanctuary here in Oregon and paint their animals, have a show, and give some of the proceeds back to them. Later, I was having intense resistance to the idea, which is already well underway. Why? I explored and meditated. My ego didn’t think the project was cool enough, sexy enough. How am I going to progress into New York City galleries if I’m painting PIGS! Years of this transformation, and I’m still battling this monstrous ego of mine.
Step 4: You’re painting and writing. You’re creating. But it’s so fragile, so gentle, so cracked open. You feel so vulnerable. You want to fling yourself in front of it to protect it like a newborn infant, lest someone unconsciously harms it. Step back. Breathe. I promise you, it’s the best work you’ve ever done.
Welcome to your voice.