Finding your own voice


(Martha Graham)

 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

“You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”~ Martha Graham

Who among us has not pondered question, “Who am I and why am I here?”

As a writer, I always thought I knew what I wanted to do. My entire life I carried a subconscious belief that one day I could write the next Great American Novel. I adopted that dream from my dad, a lifelong journalist, who for as long as I can remember would say, “When I retire, I am going to write the Great American Novel.” One of my greatest joys was talking with my father about writing and our goals for the future, and we even conspired to perhaps write the GAN together.

When we understand who we are not, it allows us to become who we are.

When my dad died, I lost my writing mentor. The voice that had helped push me forward was silent. Somehow, I had to find that voice on my own. And so, I pressed on and a little more than a year after dad’s passing, I finished my second book. It wasn’t the Great American Novel, but it was my labor of love. I worked hard to promote it and launch it. Getting to that point had been difficult in that year of mourning, but I had hope that a modicum of success would energize me forward.

A sense of failure

Unfortunately, the book launch party was less than stellar. As the minutes ticked by that night, my heart and spirit sank. I felt a dreaded sense that perhaps this evening was not meant to be. For two hours, I waited for the 50 or so people who said they would be there to show up. In the end, only a handful of people stopped by before we quietly packed up the table full of uneaten appetizers and went home.

Sometimes discouragement and difficulty is the leaping off point toward more clarity.

After a year putting the book together and working to near exhaustion to bring it to life, I felt deserted and devastated. My confidence was shaken. In my mind I felt like I had been rejected as a writer. Quitting sounded like an option.

Finding our Life Force

But, if there ever was a time to try and find what Martha Graham referred to as a Life Force, this was it. This unwelcome heartbreak caused me to pause and think about who I was – really was – as a writer, and what direction I needed to go to fulfill my own unique expression.

I discovered that some of the past expectations I had been carrying around were no longer relevant to who I was. I didn’t have to want to write the next Great American Novel, or any novel for that matter, and that didn’t lessen the value of my work. I took stock of what I was good at and loved doing, and realized it was in my best interest to nurture those talents rather than compare myself to others and  feel incomplete over not being something I’m not. I was finding my own voice.

…if we just give it time, the Universe nearly always shows us a new path.

A shift in perception

A mental and emotional shift in our identity is like waking up and discovering we’re not really who we thought we might be. But, it can be the enlightenment that  liberates us from the anchors tying us down to misguided perception and expectations. When we understand who we are not, it allows us to become who we are. We’re free to focus our energies on what is and what can be, rather than spinning our wheels trying to be a square peg in a round hole.

Sometimes discouragement and difficulty is the leaping off point toward more clarity. I’ve found that by just giving it a bit of time, the Universe nearly always shows us our path.

For me, that has meant a new freedom and interest in my art. I’m no longer bogged down in some self-imposed, woulda, coulda, shoulda expectations. I am who I am.


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