Every year at this time, I give my Haven Blog over to the alums of my Haven Writing Retreats both to show the support that writers need to have for one another, to give myself the sacred dormancy of winter to work on my own book projects, as well as to help parse a theme that burns bright inside me.
This year that theme is Voice.
So for the next few weeks, I will be posting essays by Haven Alums on this theme and you will see their minds wander in this wondering of just what it means to Find Your Voice. And set it free.
Please enjoy and please consider opening to the fact that YOU DO have a voice, and it is your own. Whether in your writing, speaking, thinking, feeling. And it is quite possibly simply waiting for you to give yourself permission to let it finally out. Or as my college professor used to say, “Stop clearing your throat…and speak.”
To read more from me on Voice, click here!
Essay #1: STOP TRYING SO HARD by Diana Davis-Dyer
My voice can get loud. Since I was little, I’ve made sure that I’m heard every time my mouth opens. “Project!”, my acting teacher said. No problemo.
But the booming voice in my little body didn’t translate to the page. Or so I thought.
I’ve been writing since I can remember. On napkins, coasters, boxes, journals. Things that can be written on. Before puberty I didn’t care what I wrote. I let it flow. My words surprised me and my parental audience because this happy kid always wrote sad stories. But I didn’t care. I wrote what I wrote.
Once the insecurities of awkward teenage years took their toll, I started to care. I shared less. I wrote what I thought people wanted to read. This lasted until my late twenties. Then I just didn’t give a fuck. I decided to go big or go home. However when you go big, you get even more self-conscious, asking, “Too far?” And I was writing screenplays with a partner. Leaning on her to tell me my ideas were good. Leaning on her to bring out the best in me. What I failed to see is that the best was always in me, I just didn’t believe in her.
Last year, while working for a Director who was editing his first feature film and in my own private office, I wrote my first very own feature length screenplay whenever I had a free moment. The office manager put my desk up on cinderblocks for pacing, leg lifting exercises, all the while talking to myself as my characters, working out scene descriptions and squinting my eyes at the ceiling to picture my Montana Mountain scenes. Scenes that I thought people wanted to see. Dialogue that I thought audiences would gasp at. But when the first words of my modern-day western, mountain-town thriller stared at me, I hated them. The pages felt they like fell out of a telenovela script on its way to the garbage. I didn’t start writing screenplays to create stories that I’ve already read and disliked. So I deleted it all and began again. This time, I wrote without an audience in mind.
I wrote from my gut. I wrote from the tiny nail on my pinky toe. I wrote from the embarrassing moments that happened way too late in life. I wrote from the head squeezing hangovers as a result of too much fun and too many bad decisions. I wrote from the anger I only let out in boxing class. I wrote from loneliness that I never admit to anyone. I wrote from the loss I felt when my parents betrayed each other. I wrote from the heartache that I feel everyday when I think of my mother.
Most of this writing happened with my eyes closed. Going back to spell check, add the missing words. Funny. I’m doing that now.
I find myself going back to that crowd-pleasing place but those words always get erased. When the blank page finds me once again, my eyes close and remember that I was lucky enough to find my voice when I stopped trying to create one for someone else.
Essay #2: RUBY SLIPPERS by Nicole Restauri
The howler monkeys laughed and hooted at my insomnia and yet they still provided companionship as I lay awake with the inescapable damp of the jungle lying heavy on my clothes and sheets. In the morning, beading pearls of moisture bejeweled the leaves and my brow as I leaped and twirled like a crazed magician beneath the moss-lined canopy of our tree house dance studio. The heaviness of this wet world pulled me to the earth in a way that made every gravity-defying step intentional.
I came to the jungle without expectations, hoping to find freedom and to trade the halls of academia for the art of dance. I was a 39 year-old physician, half hippie and half yuppie; more accustomed to club level at the Ritz Carlton, now in an eco-resort in the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest on an ecstatic dance retreat. In truth, I was lost, and all of the rules and tools I had acquired to find my way home were broken. I had to go bigger, find a new pair of ruby slippers, and it was scary.
Our tribe’s gracious leader announced that this afternoon we would be using voice to work with our throat chakras. My skin hurt at the mention of Voice and it felt as if someone had encased my neck in plastic wrap. Voice is not a benign word, within it lies the beating heart of vulnerability. Our task that afternoon was to walk into the jungle, in groups of three, and sing without words until we felt the power from our gut drive the unique song that only we could produce. No falsetto here. This was about power.
My tentative threesome entered the jungle in silence and found a hopeful place at the foot of an ancient twisted Banyan tree. “Who wants to go first?” asked Lisa, the extrovert in our group, adding, “I think we should hold hands.” Feeling foolish, I started small. The encouraging eyes of my partners gently drew me on to a deeper place and I realized that the vastness of the jungle held space for exploration and expansion. The sound was never “pretty.” It was raw. After all, “pretty” is just a shell that cracks when faced with something deeper that is more akin to soul. As my throat quivered and reached for its rightful place, I found a strength and connection from core to vocal chords. Something in my body let go. If a girl has to fly to the middle of the jungle and scream into the abyss to finally hear her own voice, well then, so be it.
It is hard to be honest in this world; to study our reflection and hear our voice without falling in love with it, degrading it or running from it. This experiment in the jungle unveiled a tool that was mine for the taking all along: a compass leading to my true north as a writer. The body holds our story, with more honesty than our mind, and it will whisper into our hand as we put pen to paper. My connection now is core to throat to pen, and I know it in my bones when I meet myself on the blank page. When I do not show up, I find a tree, I sit, breathe and sometimes I scream. Eventually, there is a homecoming and a bearing witness to the messy goodness and courage it takes to leave pretty behind…
Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!
February 22-26 (full with wait list)
To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.