Saturday, December 12, 2009

On Fear and Baring Your Soul

I once had a voice teacher in college (Voice for non-music majors, I should add) who told us on the first day that we would be doing lots of solo singing and it was okay if we were scared because singing for a room full of people was like taking off your clothes and standing naked before them while they judge you. At first I was like, huh? But then he explained that our voice, and the instrument we use to sing is inside our body. It's hidden where nobody can see. You can't look at a person and know whether or not they're a good singer. So the act of singing is taking out that hidden part and putting it on display for everyone.

I think writing is the same way. Until you put words to paper and show it to someone, no one knows what's really inside you. Writing reveals things even you didn't know about yourself. What moves you. What you think is beautiful or scary. What breaks your heart. You're showing people how you see the world and then hoping that even if they don't see it the same way, they will at least get what you're trying to say and love it anyway. That's scary.

It's also really brave. I've always thought that in general, art is courage. Even when an idea burns inside you to get out, actually bringing it to life and sharing it with others takes courage. The truly amazing paintings, music, and books, the ones that changed or made history are the ones where the creator took a risk, followed their gut, and then showed it to the world.

I think to those of us who are unpublished and plugging away this is important to remember. It's supposed to be a little bit scary. You're sharing a hidden part of yourself. You're supposed to wonder if what's true for you will translate and resonate with other people. If you're writing, and every single word you put down has you thinking "They're gonna love this! This is exactly what people want!" Then maybe, (just maybe, because hey, you might be a writing genius) you're not reaching deep enough inside yourself to the things that make you uniquely you. You don't want to do what's already been done. You need to stand out, and that means swallowing your fear (and your pride) and showing all of you, even the hidden parts.

11 comments:

Elle Strauss said...

You're scaring me...:) Even blogging is like that, only in some ways worse, because you're writing as yourself, not hiding behind a character. Sometimes I think, maybe I shouldn't have blogged about that, or maybe I shouldn't have said that, but hey, it's my blog, right?

But it still can me a little unnerving.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

"...in general, art is courage." I love that and couldn't agree more. I always try to reassure my high school composition students that I understand writing for them is not done with lead or ink - it's their fears and insecurities, blood and guts. Even for the most accomplished writers, words put on paper require personal risk. :)

Rhiannon Hart said...

When I gave someone my novel to read and they said, "Yay, now I get to know what goes in inside your head!" I nearly took it back from them! If that's what goes on inside my head, it's a very silly place...

Valerie said...

Elle - it's so true! I wavered on whether or not to start a blog for a long time for that very reason.

Shannon - I wish I'd had you for high school English! You sound like a great teacher!

Rhiannon - I know the feeling! I'm always hesitant to let anyone who really knows me read my stuff, although I have no problem with relative strangers reading it! LOL

Sara ♥ said...

This is one of the best blog posts I've read in a very long time. It's accurate and beautifully written. I am wondering if you'd allow me to repost it on my blog? (And give you full credit, of course!(

Valerie said...

Of course Sara, I would be honored! Thanks so much for the compliment!

Sara ♥ said...

OMG yay!! I am definitely going to do it! Probably next Tuesday(ish). I will let you know. I'm so pumped!!!!!

Sara ♥ said...

This goes up on Wednesday :-) It's scheduled and good to go!! Thanks so much for letting me repost your fabulous words!!

Sara ♥ said...

Lies. Thursday is the day. Sorry! My internet was down all day today, so I only posted an awards post this evening, so I want to let the light shine on the award winners for a day!

Thursday at 8am is when I'm reposting. You are still so wonderful for letting me do it!!!

Iapetus999 said...

Came here from Sara ♥'s site.

Did you really have to sing naked? ;)

That's the scary thing about critique groups.

I used to work for a large internet company as a software dev. After we submitted our code, we'd receive an email that stated among other things, "Thank you for your submission. Now sit back and wait while people make disparaging remarks about your beautiful masterpiece."

I agree that guts and sticking to your own ideas are important, I also think that the end result needs to be somewhat intelligible to others as well. I think that's the secret to good writing: writing something unique that others understand as well.

Bethany Mattingly said...

I hopped over here from Sara's blog and I'm so glad I did. This post was amazing!!!! It totally spoke to me in a way I wasn't expecting. I'm following you now!

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