Great storytelling coming as much from an embodied place, a place of emotion, body sensations and sensory impressions, as from our heads.Read More
It can feel like it’s about…
…freeing the words that have been trapped inside us for decades, and having that conversation
…writing the novel that has the page-turning quality of a Dan Brown
…attaining guru status like Paulo Coelho
…proving our worth to our father
…standing on stage at The Apollo Theatre
…becoming financially secure
…the world recognising the master songwriter we know we’ve always been
…writing the dedication
…choosing the text and art work for the cover
And, of course, that’s all part of it.
But the bigger thing rumbles underneath.
It’s the yearning to express that we carry round with us, like a wild animal howling through the dark wood.
Our heart aches- for what?
To find the words that can express the strength of our inner experience (imagined or remembered, owned or given to a fictional character) in words.
To feel. To find the channel for the upsurge of emotion.
To express it
To contain it
To be heard.
Doing the washing-up, sending a work email, bathing the kids, we sometimes find ourselves inspired by an idea, stopped in our tracks by an image, catching a glimpse of our wild words. The words that want to be expressed, the story that needs to be told.
Like those moments in the forest, on the trail of the wild animal, when we see an amber eye glinting in dusk light, a flash of a tail through the dew-filled undergrowth, a paw print in virgin snow... Tantalising… Calling us to come closer. Warning us to stay away.
There are as many different forms of words as there are creatures in the forest, squeaking, roaring, galloping, crawling, grunting wild creatures all, but whatever the form, the process is much the same.
It has two parts: which must be kept distinct if we are to avoid our human-storyteller-animal freezing (commonly know as creative or writer’s block).
Stage 1: The first draft. Written from instinct.
This necessitates trusting that we are all natural storytellers, and knowing that we’re doing something worthwhile (Don’t believe me? Read this.)
Write the draft straight through, from beginning to end, when you’re feeling fresh, and connected to the emotion of the narrator or lead character. (Struggling to connect to the emotions? Here’s a blog that will help.)
Stage 2: The subsequent drafts. Here, welcome in the kindly critic.
Bring in techniques that will help you to express on the lips or the page, what you want to express. Use them consciously, precisely. (Stick with Wild Words for 2017, and you’ll have all the precise techniques you’ll ever need by the end of the year).
After repeated use, the techniques of stage 2 will drop down into the unconscious, and become instinctual. You will find you increasingly use them in the first draft stage.
For those working with oral storytelling and communication:
The process is much the same. Stage 1 is saying what you need to say, without judging yourself. Stage 2 is consciously learning skills that enable you to do stage 1 more skillfully, appropriately and impactfully, the next time around.
Block to Flow
We yearn to express ourselves. However, what keeps our words caged is that we also fear it. We are terrified that if all that energy inside is let loose, it will rampage, destroying ourselves, or another. Think of the tiger in the jungle. He’s such a majestic creature. We crave a sighting, but we are panic-stricken at the idea of looking him in the eye.
At Wild Words we don’t just unbolt the door of the cage. That’s not the way to the best self-expression.
If we do that, more often than not, the words cower in the back of their cage, terrified by their change in circumstances. Then we’re faced with our stuttering self on stage, or days spent staring at the blank page. Or, we spit words that we regret, often at those we love most. There’s that tiger attacking the person who unlocked their cage.
And in people with a history of trauma, sudden release of energy can result in patterns of trauma being re-enforced. There’s that tiger attacking your very soul.
No, there’s an art to bringing the aliveness that lies within, out and into form. Rather than crank up the resistance, we work with respect for the survival strategies (those metaphorical bars) that have kept those words in, often for years, out of concern for our safety.
There are techniques, mind-blowing ones (start here) for tempting those wild words out, for opening up that pure channel of communication between our self, our character or narrator, and the reader or listener.
Then we find that our words are living, breathing, perspiring creatures, more vivid, engaging and vital than we could ever have imagined possible.
They rise up through our body, dance off our lips, pour onto the page.
They live fully, broadly, and deeply. And so do we.
Then we have, indeed, cleared a path through the woods to becoming the next J. K Rowling, Kate Tempest, or whoever it is who lights our fire.
And you know what we find once we’ve tracked down our wild words?
That the only thing that really matters is the feeling of being a free, roaring creature, more alive than we’ve ever felt before, roaming our vast territory…
The important thing to know is, that just because you think you want to free those wild words, doesn’t mean there won’t be whole raft of ways in which you will unconsciously try to avoid doing that very thing.
Cutting away just as tension, emotion or drama heightens is one example. And there’s a whole sub-category of ways in which you will try to sabotage your relationship with me in our group or individual sessions. Don’t worry, I won’t take it personally.
We think we want to live and write in a way that’s unfettered, spontaneous, more instinctual, but it’s an unfamiliar way of being. Human beings, in general, cling to what is familiar, even if it’s unpleasant.
We’re frightened of the unknown. Added to that there’s the terror we feel when getting in touch with those strong emotions is offered to us as a possibility.
Be reassured, I will never go storming in and strip away the strategies, the defence mechanisms that you’ve unconsciously spent years erecting. I will never force you to face what lies behind. Freeing the tiger that way, might mean the tiger turns around and eats you, or me, or us both. No, we must be much cleverer than that, like a good tracker. A good tracker understands and works with his environment; he doesn’t see it as an enemy.
It may be that some, or all of your strategies no longer serve you well, but it’s important to acknowledge that your body and mind are doing the best they can to keep you well and safe, within the range of possibilities open to them.
So our starting point is to respect our own creativity, strength and resilience in this respect. It’s easy to be clear about what we have to gain by freeing those wild words, but it’s what you have to gain by NOT freeing them that is keeping you stuck. That’s what we need to work to understand. What is it that you have to lose?
This blog was first published on October 31st 2012