Two months ago, I started putting together a 5-week Creative Writing 101 E-Course for Art of Storytelling. I boiled down all that I’d learned over 18 years of teaching and coaching fiction and memoir into five video lessons. I also wrote a story following each video exercise and I am posting successive versions of the story with the lessons for participants to see how the process works.
While making the videos, day after day, anxiety kept boiling up from my belly. It was like a sheet of pure panic that rose from my belly button until it got to my shoulders. At night, I felt an overwhelming need to weep, although I did not. The word that kept coming to me was “inconsolable”. I had surreal, wildly intense upsetting dreams. I could not understand what was happening. I said to friends: “These video lessons are kicking me in the ass. They’re like a 2 out of a 10 when it comes to big things I’ve done in my life; why in the hell are they kicking me in the ass?”
Finally, my back gave out completely, a recurring condition where I have to lay on the hardwood floor for hours and stare at the ceiling. I’ve done my own healing work now for 20 years, and I know that staying down doesn’t help. You have to get up and ask for help.
So, I contacted two healer visionaries I know, Lisa Jones, http://www.artoflivinghappy.com and Ellen Newhouse, http://www.ellennewhouse.com. Besides being channelers and healers, both happen to be writers I had spent years with, coaching them on their first books.
What came up as they channeled messages about the anxiety, the panic, the grief was that the e-course was opening me to another level of voice, a deeper level. Before my intellect did a lot of the writing. Now my heart was opening. Where I had seen the importance of the e-course as a 2 out of a 10, from a spiritual perspective, the opening to my truth was a 20 out of a 10.
And I was so terrified of the consequences of my truth coming out, that my body actually physically rebelled. It clenched up to try and stop me from speaking my truth. (This comes after two decades of writing short stories, and finishing two novels and being halfway through my third novel. I’m not a new writer! So you can imagine how surprised I was to find out how terrified I still am of speaking my truth.)
As a child, there was the threat of real violence, on top of shaming, ridicule, neglect and abandonment, when anyone spoke their truth, voiced the truth of what they were seeing around them. I’m Sagittarius and a storyteller who believes in honesty above all else, so it was particularly tough on me. I conveyed my truth in my visual art, as well, and I cannot count how many times I was told that I was NOT a visual artist. They used to shout me down about it. You are NOT a visual artist. NO! NO! (You can imagine how that might block a creative person!)
The story I wrote to go with the e-course was about the first book I ever received. When I was 11, my godmother gave me Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I never read it. To this day, I haven’t read it. There were no books in our house growing up in mid-Missouri, except a King James Bible and a Farmer’s Almanac. I couldn’t read Little Women. How could it ever live up to my expectations? Or perhaps I’d have a panic attack, or just DIE if I read it. I just could NOT read it, no matter how many times I tried. Instead, I slept with it, petted it, smooched it, threw it in the back of my Pinto when I turned 16 and cruised the Boulevard with it, and finally took it to college where the binding broke and the pages began to fall out like an old woman’s hair.
My godmother SAW me by giving me that book. Not just by the act of giving a fledgling teen writer a book, but by the power of the story itself (I saw the movie years later, so I do know what the book is about.)
Being seen stirred up the terror embedded in my flesh, the terror of violence. I was writing about “being seen” when I was 11, and at nearly 50, still the terror was stirred up!
Over the past few weeks, I have dreamt five male crack addicts gang raped me. I have dreamt someone gave me a banana and as I put it into my mouth it turned into a gun. In waking life, I nearly drove my car off the road, unconsciously playing out the fear. I kept asking myself: How am I going to go forward as a writer with so much fear? How am I ever going to make it? Yes, okay, I’m opening to heart-centered voice, but how in the hell can I survive such an opening?
I know from so many years in the healing process, that the opening is the most terrifying, but then the healing integrates. There are ways to help along this integration. Receiving from top-notch healers like Ellen Newhouse and Lisa Jones has helped me a lot. If you’re a writer, you heal by writing about it, which is what I’m doing here and what I’ll continue to do in evolving my short story. Still even as I write this, my head goes dizzy with the fear of retribution for the truth telling I am doing in this blog.
If you have a deep fear of speaking your truth, get up and speak about it, write about, ask for help. Don’t just wallow alone in it. Help is out there. Both Lisa and Ellen’s books detail their own personal journey through fear into speaking their truths. There are many of us out here who want to help. Another way I heal is to help other people as a coach write their books about their path toward self-actualization, healing and truth-telling.
I urge you to open a dialogue about past trauma that is blocking you. Speak your truth in any way you can.
The Art of Storytelling is a coaching service for writers. We offer a free initial consulation, http://www.artofstorytellingonline.com.