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Haven Winter 2017 Blog Series #1: Finding Your Voice

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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!

Yrs. Laura

Essay #1: STOP TRYING SO HARD by Diana Davis-Dyer

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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.

- Diana Davis-Dyer

 

Essay #2: RUBY SLIPPERS by Nicole Restauri

Forward

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…

-Nicole Restauri

Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!

February 22-26 (full with wait list)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Finding Your Voice: The 2017 Haven Winter Blog Series

 

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Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!

Every year at this time, I give my Haven Blog over to the alums of my Haven Writing Retreats 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.

I use the phrase Find Your Voice often, and people often say to me that they have finally found their Voice (I especially love when that happens at Haven!)…but what does it really mean?  If we find our voice, does that mean that we have been voiceless?  Does it mean that we didn’t know we had one in the first place?  And if so, where did we learn such a destructive myth?  Were we told from a very young age that we should be seen but not heard, or that we shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves, or act like a show off?  Or that we should only speak when we were spoken to?  When we expressed ourselves in a way that didn’t fit the mold, were we punished?  Were our mouths washed out with soap…maybe even just for saying the word “no?” or “why?” Maybe we endured verbal or physical abuse over our words from the very beginning and so we learned to keep them inside of us and maybe they have never felt safe in the world ever since.  Maybe we’ve learned how “to be a parrot just to cite a silly rule,” in the words of the boy who wouldn’t grow up.  Maybe our words were considered inconvenient for the people around us, or even dangerous, and they deemed us their enemy, making it their full focus to destroy our words and the integrity around them.  The reasons why we might feel voiceless are endless.  What I hear over and over again is this:  “Even if I did have a voice, someone else already said what I have to say, or said it better. Who am I to think my voice is unique, or even matters in the first place?”

 To this I say: Who are you not to? Because the truth is that it’s actually not possible for anyone to have your voice, even if they try.  At Haven Writing Retreats, we work off of the same prompts in our morning classes, and we all get to see the living proof of this fact:  no one can write like you can.  Your job is to dig deeply with raw realness, and say what you truly have to say in the way that only you can say it.  And here’s how to know if you are in that confluence of pure truth and intention:  it’s easy. It’s flowing almost effortlessly.  You are not in the way of it.  It is as natural as it can be for you to be exactly who you are from thought to the form that is self-expression.  And as I’ve said many times:  ultimately it’s not about the words at all. It’s about what’s behind them, what’s between them, and what’s left in their wake.

So for the next few weeks, I will be posting essays by Haven Writing Retreat 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.  Nobody can take that away from you.  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.”

Yrs. Laura

p.s.  As a special Valentine’s Day gift to yourself, listen to the New York Times and WBUR Modern Love Podcast series! It is full of stories of love, its messiness and sometimes resolve, its bravery and always-teachings. Recently, I got to hear my own writing voice spoken and intuited by the talented and powerful actress, Alysia Reiner, who absolutely nailed my essay, Those Aren’t Fighting Words, Dear– the short version of my New York Times best-selling memoir, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is, and the #2 ranked Modern Love essay in the history of the column.  It has been reproduced in print all over the world...and now, thanks to Alysia and the Modern Love Podcast…it has an actual voice.  Deep bows of gratitude.  

Haven Writing Retreats 2017 Schedule

February 22-26 (full with wait list)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreatgo to the Contact Us button here.

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Memory Lane Monday

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Now booking 2017 Haven Writing Retreats!

February 22-26 (only a few spots left)
June 7-11
June 21-25
September 6-10
September 20-24
October 4-8
October 18-22

To schedule a phone call to learn more about the retreat, go to the Contact Us button here.

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As you might have noticed, I resist the formulaic Top Ten lists that are all over the internet, as much as I resist the sound bytes that have become our attention span.  My blog posts are too long and likely too reflective.  But when I started this blog, it was with the express intention of making easy, informal connections with people, without the publishing world as carrier pigeon.  My true love is long form writing– the novel/the memoir, and I am hard at work on three books as I write this post.  That said, when you fall off your horse and bust a few ribs, life reduces itself to the nitty gritty, and it’s worth noting:  It literally goes step by step, and we better be grateful for each one, even though they hurt like hell-fire in our thoracic cavity.  Suddenly, I am finding gratitude for two inches to the left at night in just the right painfree position.  Dodging a sneeze with deep sniffing.  The smell of lavendar oil.  And very ungrateful when the toilet paper roll slips out of my hands and rolls…rolls…rolls…to the other end of the bathroom.  What was last week “another damn trip into town to do errands” when all I wanted was to be in my bed reading and writing during this hiatus between leading writing retreats, maybe taking a little walk…is now something I long for, just like my golden retriever when he’d see our busy purposeful steps to the truck, sure of some sort of adventure that the front porch couldn’t provide.

While these ribs heal, a few minutes on the front porch is all the adventure this body can take, never mind the potholes and washboards of a country road.  And so it brings me back to a Top Ten list I wrote, sort of mocking Top Ten lists, last year that sums up why I love living in my town– this town I can’t wait to re-visit hopefully next week, grateful for the wind in my hair, and a list of errands to do, and even a good old fashioned sneeze.

First, however, perhaps it might be useful to list the top ten possible reasons I fell off my horse and am in this pickle:

To stop working so hard

To feel grateful for tiny things

To stop multi-tasking

To stop letting unfinished projects bother me

To let the piles go

To leave the unpicked up things unpicked up

To make friends with the dust bunnies

To appreciate a firm pillow

To be grateful for a window with a view

To be grateful for people who bring me soup and make me tea

And now…Drum roll….

Ten+ reasons why I live in Whitefish, Montana

September 4, 2015

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(*note:  You’d think it has to do with skiing and golfing…but it doesn’t.)

Because I can go outside to get something out of my car naked.

Because if the UPS guy drove up while I was getting something out of my car naked, he wouldn’t make a big deal out of it.

Because I can go into town in the same outfit I slept in and no one would even notice and if they did notice they’d say, “Good for you.”

Because we have old fashioned streetlights with hanging flower baskets on them, an ice cream parlor, a toy store, a hardware store, and a brewery (and a whole lot of other cool locally owned stores and restaurants).

Because when you go to the Post Office, people ask you about your kids by name.

Because the health food store owners know more about my digestive tract than I do.  And they hold my babies when we load the car.  (I love you Rick and Dawn.)

Because we have a Winter Carnival where grown-ups dress up like Vikings and Yetis and Queens and Kings and ride floats and jump into a frozen lake.  And lots of people come to watch and think it’s fun.

Because it doesn’t matter how much money you have.  And nobody really cares, if they do know.

Because we’re all the same in a snow storm.

Because we’re all the same in a forest fire.

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Because we’re all the same when there’s a grizzly bear or a mountain lion on the trail.

Because the Great Northern Railroad comes right through town and I can feel connected to my hometown Chicago, and another favorite old haunt, Seattle.

Because Glacier National Park is on a lot of people’s bucket list and for us, it’s an easy answer to the question, “So what do you want to do today?”

Because we believe in our wandering rights and have 26 miles of non-motorized trail meandering through our greenbelt, with more to come. (The Whitefish Trail)

Because we have lakes and rivers all around us.

Because it serves up things to write about daily.

Because we have a Farmer’s Market that everybody goes to, even if it’s hailing.

Because people care about the Arts here, (not just about skiing and golfing).

Because on school field trips, my kids go snow-shoeing, ice-fishing, and skiing.

Because they broadcast the local high school football game at the grocery store.

Because people read the local paper.  That’s all we’ve got, anyway.

Because at Christmas-time, we string the same vintage bells across the street as they used in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Is that ten reasons?  I need to drive my kid to school in my pajamas now.  Oh, and I need eggs.  But maybe I’ll just get those from the neighbor’s chickens.

See more about Whitefish, Montana

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