Note: Multi-author and longtime teacher Laraine Herring is one of our Premium Consultants. In this guest piece, she shares with us her own journey from writing as shouting to writing as Story. Her calling to you as an author or business artist might stir something. I hope so. – Jeffrey
Once upon a time, I wrote a one-note story. I knew how to shout and stomp and rebel, and I could do that with pretty sentences and sucker punches. I’d bought the myth that I had to be angry to be an artist.
I had to be an isolationist. I had to be broke and struggling.
If I led a calm and contented life, how could I possibly be a creative force? I didn’t have any models for that approach. The capital “W” Writers we studied in school were more than a little tragic. More than a little suicidal and drunk. Whom could I look to for a different path?
What I didn’t know back in my late twenties was that the anger, the shouting, and the isolation were deflections, not creative fuel. I didn’t know how to be soft and strong, or how to be vulnerable enough to let readers into my world. I was afraid of what I really wanted to say, so I covered it in armor, spiked it with exclamation points.
Maybe you can relate to hiding your power. Maybe you put off telling your story until tomorrow. Always tomorrow. Or maybe you’ve been silent for so long, the sound of your voice, the scratch of your pen on the page, brings a shudder. A tear. Maybe you have a surprising belief about what it means to be a writer lurking in your heart. Is that belief helping you? Hindering you? You know you have a story inside that wants to get out. It follows you throughout your day. But when the desk is clear and the room is empty, something stops you. What could it be? Wouldn’t it be great to know?
When our ideas of what it means to be a writer come crashing into the reality of being a writer, we can get confused. We can falter. When this essential loss of innocence moment occurs, we learn to practice discernment, choosing which beliefs we want to keep and which we want to bid a fond farewell. It takes much more courage to own the medicine of our Stories when we can write in service to that Story, rather than out of vengeance or vanity.
When we have the audacity to stand on solid ground, looking inward with discernment and compassion, we will write deep Stories that transform readers. What’s that voice at the back of your throat whispering? What’s your untold story? And how can you best articulate and present the gift of that story to your readers? These are the questions of the Captivating Author.
As Emerson writes, “It is not meters, but a meter-making argument that makes a poem—a thought so passionate and alive, that, like the spirit of a plant or an animal, it has an architecture of its own, and adorns nature with a new thing.” A Story’s impact on the reader lies not in its volume or tricks of talent, but in its depth. Showy language, fantastic plots, or super-villains don’t open readers’ hearts. It’s the dramatization of the story’s journey—its thematic container—held together by Story Architecture that expands our empathy. It’s the depth at which you, the writer, are willing to go to bring back the magic of story that will ultimately move a reader.
We always go under first, we writers, we spelunkers. We move into the unknown cave and bring back an experience. To make that journey, we must find a way to dialogue with the voice in the back of our throats. We have to wrestle with our internalized beliefs that don’t serve us or our work. We have to be willing to risk being seen in the light of day, alive and glistening, no longer hiding behind capital letters and excessive punctuation.
Writers engage in, as Ira Progoff says, “that solitary journey we cannot take alone.” We have many companions. First, we travel with our deepest selves. Then, we travel with the writers who have gone before us, and finally we travel with our readers who teach us what’s next. Your book deserves all of you. Your readers do, too. To get there, you have to be willing to meet yourself on the other side of the page. When you step into your story, you illuminate the path for others.
It is a rare thing to have a life in which you can create art.
Do not wait for the planets to align. They already have.