Monday, February 17, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Kalliope and Finding One's Voice

Unearthing the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...
Urania and Kalliope, Simon Vouet, 1590 - 1649
Kalliope, eldest of the nine muses. That's her on the right, holding a copy of The Odyssey and sitting with her sister Urania. Known as the muse of eloquence and epic poetry, her name means "beautiful voice."
Kalliope, 1869
Kalliope, Giovanni Baglione
Finding one's voice. We hear it a lot, but what does it actually mean? It doesn't refer to just the act of speaking. More to the point, it refers to the ability to express one's self, one's wishes, one's desires, one's needs, one's deepest beliefs. It is equated with being authentic. And the path towards authenticity is an ongoing one.

I believe we all come into this world with our voice intact, with knowing how to use it. It is only through our upbringing, no matter how well intended, that our voices become trampled by our elders - our parents, our teachers, our bosses. You name it.

Voice is something writers talk about a lot. The ability to have inspiration and the ability to communicate that inspiration freely and abundantly. More often than not, writers fear that won't happen - the inspiration won't come or the ability to communicate freely won't be present. Alexandra Fuller, author of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, has perhaps the best advice:

I think you have to write about a million words to clean out the pipes. I think we are afraid of our own voices and are very self-censoring, and we write as if the book is going to publish and be read by people. Once we realize we're never going to get published and we just write; that's our voice.

That last part about never going to be published is a hard one to hear. But it is a necessary obstacle to overcome mentally. If we write to please someone else, to serve a certain demographic, we are doomed. Because that isn't our voice - that's a voice that's bending to the authority figures. As Joseph Campbell says,

When I'm writing, I think of the whole academic world: I know how they think about this material and it is not the same way I think about it. I just have to say: Let the guillotine come down. You are still going to have this message. I always feel as if I am going thorough the Clashing Rocks, and they are just about to close, but I manage to get through before I let that thought overcome me. It's a very strange process: actually holding that door open and getting the sentences out. Do not think about the negative side. There will bw negatives that are going to come down, but you have to hold the door open if you are going to do anything that has not been done before. You have to suspend all criticism to do your work. In writing, you have to do this all the time in order to get the sentence out. Suspending criticism is killing the dragon Thou Shalt. 

Kill him. 

I've completed my manuscript. I've read it over countless times, polished and edited it to where I feel it's ready to go. This book is my voice, and I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that my protagonist is named Kalliope. I didn't choose the name because of its meaning, it just came to me. Serendipitously. The Universe always seems to be nudging us towards what we need to learn. And so we must learn to not be afraid of speaking our truth and being heard. We must begin the work of rediscovering our voice. It's down there, somewhere, waiting for us to reclaim it.
Me, with my voice intact at an early age

21 comments:

  1. well, good luck with the publishing part then. If you write as well as your blog posts suggest, should be a home run!

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  2. An interesting post that I enjoyed reading.

    Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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  3. Congratulations! Getting something ready for publication, getting to that finish-line is a major accomplishment. I hope the editors who'll guide you to the very end will leave your voice intact. You have a clear, gentle way with your story-telling; your readers will appreciate what you have to say.

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  4. Congrats..yay..wonderful you have finished it! Beautifully written post..filled with your passion and truth...and yes our voice is a most precious gift never to be altered or silenced! Thanks for sharing your heart and shining your magic...wishing you much bliss in all that you do..and much deep joy in all that follows you into your journey!

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  5. Wise words Amanda.
    Our voice is what is different about us and our's alone. It is when I've read someone for awhile and then in some obscure corner of blog world I see words by a different name but know that voice is the same and that no one else could have written those words. As you said, it is the authentic self.
    Congratulations on completing the book btw.

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  6. Sis, I so love the pictures you include from your life. The ones from years past hold a particularly deep charm!

    Well, you know we've had plenty of conversations along these lines. Which reminds me, I need to see if you had the opportunity to respond to a comment on an earlier post. Off to check ...

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  7. Finding one's voice is a marvellous discovery. I have found, and re-found, mine several times. From the life of a broadcaster and print journalist, to just being a lazy old Bear and writing whatever I like. Suits me just fine.

    Blessings and Bear hug, well-voiced amanda!

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  8. Love the post Amanda. Sheherazade came to me serendipitously. Though they tell us to know our audience, well, what do they really know anyway. Write what you know and it will be good. After all, it really is the journey, not the destination.

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    1. True that Donna, and good advice. Am intrigued to find out more about Sheherazade...

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  9. I loved this post Amanda. Something we should all bear in mind. Sometimes it's so hard to just listen to the inner voice. I know I am full of self-doubt but trying to do a bit better every day.

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  10. Interesting, I have never thought about deeper interpretation of the roles of the Muses. I agree with you, our voice is a subject of big influence of the parents/teachers, collegues etc. The older you are the hardest is to find it

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  11. There's a lot here to be excited about. First, you have finished your manuscript! Second, it is your authentic voice! How brilliant that is to hear.

    I love what you've written here, and shared from others. The images are something else, and the one of you fits in with the others so well. It seems like a painting. :)

    This post is a continuation of thoughts this past week, within a family conversation, about essence versus personality, and how we can begin to lose touch with our essence (our self) all too quickly after birth. Also, the persona we present to the world is too often not our real self, and so we become entrenched in that counter-ego, afraid to let our real self show. Thank you for another way of thinking about this. I love it, and your connection with Kalliope.

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    1. I've read about what you speak of here, Ruth, cloaked in so many different forms but all pointing to the same thing. Some call it essence vs. personality, some call is intent vs. reason, some call it
      Self vs.self. Sort of like the Zen koan talking about the finger pointing to the moon. Coming to the understanding that our domestication teaches us to wear masks and then learning how to drop them is one of life's biggest lessons.

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  12. Congratulations on finishing your MS! I'm envious as I'm only halfway through my WIP. Good advice on voice from one of my favorite authors. I loved Fuller's first memoir for voice but the voice in the second one felt more forced, like she was writing an apology to her mother for being so honest in the first book. From what I've seen on your blog, I'm guessing that you have a strong unapologetic voice that channels the female spirit. Good luck!

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    1. That's a fascinating observation about Fuller's second book. Is it Scribbling the Cat you are referring to? I've not read it and now I must to see this shift in voice.

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  13. My long admiring comment just got swallowed and I can't settle for an abbreviated form. Drat. I'll do my best to come back soon

    Love
    kj

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    1. Drat indeed - those doggone Blogger comment gobblers! :))

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  14. Loved this post Amanda. I think you would like this article (I do): http://www.shambhalasun.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2848&Itemid=0
    It's a bit long, I know.

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    1. I am an admirer of Pico Iyer's writing, so it is interesting to read how he approaches the craft. His take on writing as meditation and highlighting its impermanence belies his Buddhist leanings. The money shot line:
      Speech is where we give and take the wisdom of the world, silence is where we absorb a wisdom that makes the world dissolve.

      Thank you for sending this, Agnes.

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  15. your "voice" has always been clear and crisp..it will continue to be so..
    I will look for the news of release date...thanks, glenn

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  16. Oh Amanda, congratulations on finishing your book! That's such wonderful news :) x

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