Monday, August 29, 2011

Getting Naked with the Muse



I suspect that many writers come to writing because they cannot find their voice in real life. They have trouble speaking their truths, whatever they may be, and writing is a place where they can do just that. (Although I am also willing to admit I might be projecting wildly here.) They don’t even have to risk anyone hearing it if they don’t want to, at least not until the writing kind of takes over and they find themselves pursuing publication.

Most everyone will agree that a great voice is what separates good writing from amazing writing. Not by itself, but it’s hard to achieve great writing without it.

After a certain point, when one has reached a certain mastery of craft, craft is no longer the issue; the uniqueness of the voice is. Not just in the words you use, but the things you have to say. They have to matter. And matter a lot. But in order to do that, you have to be willing to declare to the world what matters to you; what you think about, obsess over, are fascinated by. Even if they aren’t pretty or normal or even very common.

I have been a tiptoer. All my life I’ve tiptoed around my family and friends, not wanting to offend or, God forbid, upset or anger them. It’s hard to describe just how much I’ve censored myself in this quest to be a good friend, mother, daughter, or wife. And in a roundabout way, it served me well because I think it was part of the impetus to turn to writing—to have some place where I could say all the things I could never say in real life. That is why the Theodosia character was such a break through for me. And the only way I could write that first book was by telling myself it was just for me, no one else was ever going to read it. No one else was ever going to see that lens through which I sometimes viewed the world. 

And one of the things I adore about the Universe is that it is very willing to send you feedback when you are on the right track. That book has been my most popular one so far, no doubt due to my willingness to untangle myself from my own fears in the writing of it.

Which brings me to the project I've just finished, GRAVE MERCY.  Boys and girls, it terrifies me. Anyone who reads it will know that I am fascinated by sex and religion, death and love, duty and honor. I’m not sure I’m ready to confess to the world that my mind spends a lot of time mucking around in those places.

And yet…it does.

There is a scene in the third Narnia book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Eustace Scrubb has been enchanted and turned into a dragon. In order to remove the enchantment, he has to bathe in a magical pool, but before he can get in it, he has to strip out of his dragon skin. Not just the outer dragonish layer, but down past the scales and skin to the raw, tender Eustace part beneath.

That’s where I feel like I am in my journey; I am in the process of stripping off that old protective skin and finding the courage to step into that pool. Not just in writing, but in life. In striving to become a better writer, I find I have forced myself to become a stronger person. Once I have allowed myself to walk about with sure and certain feet, it is hard to get back up on my tiptoes and resume that cautious, tentative journey.

Stripping off those old protections stings, no question. Maybe even burns a little. I feel raw and tender and unbelievably vulnerable and exposed.

And yet, I am convinced that incredible freedom and beauty exists on the other side of that pool…

(originally posted on The Moody Muses blog)

14 comments:

CPatLarge said...

"Stripping off those old protections stings, no question." There's an understatement! But one which I need to be reminded of, just like the image of getting to the raw, tender, and "real" me underneath the nice girl who never says a cross word :-/

I've been told by several readers recently that my best writing is my most passionate, emotional writing, usually essays. How do I transfer that passion to my fiction? Still working on that one...

liz michalski said...

This is such a beautiful, honest post - thank you for sharing!

Sarah said...

Wonderful- thank you for your example of courage.

tanita davis said...

I cannot WAIT to see this one. I very much want to be that brave soul that you are showing yourself to be. Kudos.

Irene Latham said...

Yay for Eustace (great analogy) and for sharing your mucky places with us. I look forward to reading!

Katy Longshore said...

Yes! Brilliant post, and inspiring to those of us who haven't yet learned to shed our dragon skin entirely (but aspire to it!)

Bish Denham said...

Excellent post. Stripping down. It's rather like pealing an onion, there is always another layer, a deeper place to go.

1000th.monkey said...

Wow, I can really identify with this post in all kinds of different ways...

Donna Maloy said...

Beautiful! Revealing yourself takes more than courage, it also takes strength. So kudos to the strong courageous you... and I'm really looking forward to the new book.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Wow, thank you all for letting me know today's post struck a chord! It's having such a great support group like this that makes it easier to take that first, scary step...

1000th.monkey, can I take that to mean that you obsess over sex, death, and politics as well? :-}

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

I never thought of it before, but I think you are exactly right. And I don't think I've taken that leap away from tiptoeing yet... something to work on!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Sheesh, Robin, I think we would be very good friends if we lived in the same area . . . the things that fascinate you are some of the things I've written about or are currently writing!

KateCoombs said...

Wow, Robin, really wonderful! You're inspiring me to rethink some things as a writer; thank you.

M.R. Jordan said...

I really connect with this. And how amazing it is that you can put it in to words.