The two sisters at the window, acrylic on canvas, http://www.carolineallen.com
How can I explain the path that has led me here, the journey that keeps bringing me back to the beginning?
After 30 years of writing and coaching and teaching, more than a decade as an international newsroom journalist, and another decade plus as a writing coach, after writing two and a half novels, after teaching more than a thousand people, and coaching dozens all the way through to publication, I still come back to my first love — the new writer.
Why do I love new writers so much? I’m writing this blog as a way to explore that. This week, as I was creating an introductory video for my new website, and last month as I was creating E-courses for the launch of the site, I could see how my eyes lit up in the videos, how my voice softened and my spirit soared when I talked about new writers. It was obvious this was part of my soul’s passion, part of my path of service in the world. But why?
My journey to becoming a novelist and artist was fraught with confusion and despair. More than a decade ago, when I knew I had to give up journalism, let go of my glorious jet-setting lifestyle, I was roaming like a ghost around the newsroom asking myself what I was doing regurgitating trauma for the masses. What was I doing? What point was there to writing about rape and murder and hate and hate and hate? I had to give it up. My soul couldn’t take it anymore.
Years of confusion followed. Despair. I was so lost. I seemed to roam the planet with my feet barely touching the ground, not walking on a cloud, but blinded in a fog.
Finally, a few years after I quit journalism, a therapist said, sternly, because nothing she was saying seemed to be getting through the thick black cloud that surrounded me, “You need to be writing every day, creative writing. I’m not talking about reporting on some traumatic event. Write. Write every day. Tell your story.”
I started sobbing. I wailed. Even more than healing from abuse, healing the voice seemed to touch something so profoundly raw in me.
“What’s stopping you?” the therapist asked.
“If I open that door, I’m terrified of the monsters.” I bent over and wailed between my knees. I wasn’t joking. I felt that the stories I’d hidden for so long were as big and scary as childhood monsters, hiding beneath the bed, lurking in the closets. “I won’t be able to get the monsters back in the cage!”
The therapist looked at me with fraught eyes. For months she’d been trying to help me. My despair was so deep. I could see its affect on her. Finally, she blurted: “Build them a cage. You’re good at building things. Build a cage, and open the door when you start to write and close it when you’re finished. They can come out and play for the writing, but they have to go back in for the rest of the day. “
I looked at her dubiously. I even stopped crying for a moment. Somewhere in the blackness, I knew it was a brilliant idea. Bringing my emotions out of me and manifesting them into some physical object in the real world always seemed to work for me.
So, I went to the DIY store. So I bought chicken wire and wood. So I built a cage. It sat under my desk for years. I began to write from 8 a.m. til noon every day. At first it was 50% sobbing and 50% writing, but that soon changed. I dutifully opened the cage at 8, then closed it again at noon.
At first the writing schedule was easy because I was only working part-time. But then I started consciously creating a life around my writing schedule, working only in the afternoons and evenings for money, so that my best energy was saved for the writing.
I started to educate myself in fiction writing. Workshops, certificate programs, writers conferences, books. I was writing short stories, but then a therapist, a different one this time, suggested the short stories were actually a novel. I started compiling them, and she was right. They WERE a novel. And then one night I had a dream. In the dream, four interconnected novels washed through me, based on my life, but also on a hero’s journey through a world devastated by climate change. Even the titles came to me in the dream: Earth, Air, Fire, Water.
Throughout the process of taking all of these different workshops, I kept thinking: these steps to creative writing, to writing a book, could be boiled down to their essence into a step-by-step program for writing a book. I sat down and brainstormed a curriculum. The name Art of Storytelling popped into my head. Through university extension programs, I taught the curriculum over the next three years to more than a thousand people. And that led to coaching people all over the world, which has now led to E-Courses.
And the whole path of writer (and visual art, as well) has brought me such profound contentment. No longer regurgitating trauma, I now speak and paint from the soul. Isn’t this all anyone wants with their life, some way to express their soul in the world?
Because my path was so fraught, because I was helped along the way, not just by a therapist or two, but by teachers passionate about writing, because I KNOW profoundly the difference it makes in a person’s life to open up to their soul’s path, these are the reasons I love new writers. These are the reasons I so passionately want to help new writers.
That moment, when a writer comes to me and I can sense their struggle, their thwarted passion, their secret desire; I can sense how for years they’ve been dying to become a writer, that moment when I can hand them one tool, two, three, and I can say to them, you can do it, of course you can do it, and I watch the light go on behind their eyes, their flesh soften, their soul expose itself to the world — that is why I love new writers. In their innocence and hope, they rejuvenate my deep and abiding love for the written word.
Daily soul work is the key to happiness. Follow that voice calling you to your soul. It’s that simple, and that difficult.
Art of Storytelling is offering an E-Course in February 2014 for new writers called Creative Writing 101. Read more here: http://www.artofstorytellingonline.com/#!creative-writing-101/c21zd