Do you know what it takes to be an artist? Maybe it applies to other things too, a general life rule for sure, but especially for artists. If you do creative work and you are looking to inspire, stir up, or otherwise touch people in a meaningful way, then your biggest fears are your most powerful weapon. Here's what I mean...
Finding Your Voice
Have you ever wondered what it means to "find your voice"? It's a phrase you'll hear over and over if you are in any kind of creative career. The sentiment may vary to "your sound" if you're a musician, or "your style" if you're a visual artist, but the intent is the same. It's what makes you unique, exciting, and interesting. Everyone wants to have a fresh voice.
Finding your voice takes time and practice, but I'll let you in on a little secret of how to fast track the process:
Your voice lies in the most vulnerable part of your heart. It's the place that you have built up walls around in order to protect. In the words of the indomitable Stephen King:
“The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away.”
Have you ever tried to hide something about yourself in order to fit in? Have you ever been afraid of not being accepted? Have you felt insecure, fearful, or ashamed? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say, "Yes." We've all been there. But the very things that made you a "freak" in high school, or that you tried to hide so you wouldn't be branded as one, are the very things that are your tools for finding your voice.
Where is your secret heart buried?
The Landmark is Vulnerability
All throughout my school age years, I tried to hide the fact that I was born into the Unification Church. We lived in a rural, predominantly protestant Christian area, with no other families of the same faith. I didn't want to be different. I didn't want to get in theological debates or risk being seen as anything but "normal."
My relationship with my faith has evolved over time, and continues to be something that I am constantly redefining for myself, but it wasn't until I started writing about it that I realized the very thing I had tried to hide and didn't want to be defined by, was the very thing that gave me my voice. It has allowed me a unique perspective on the world. It's what makes people stop and say, "whoa, that's something different," but this time, different is a good thing.
I admit, even writing this now, I feel that twinge of unease. Are any of us ever comfortable with baring our souls so completely? With letting our hearts hang out in the wind? And yet, that's what is required of the artist.
The thing you are most afraid of, is the thing you absolutely have to share. It's the thing that will resonate most deeply with an audience. Vulnerability is your tuning fork and your north star. I still feel the fear. I still get uncomfortable, but I know now that those feelings mean I'm on the right track. I am treading close to my secret heart.
Being an artist is the courage to share that secret, over and over again. We do it because we believe that art can make a difference, that finding my voice feeds my own soul, and encourages others to do the same.
Show us your heart, show us your treasure. I can't promise it won't get broken, but I can promise it will be worth it.