Out of the Cloud and Down to the Ground
Part 1: The Voices, The Audience.
Three years ago I hoped for the birth of my first blog post. I wanted it to be something more researched, elegant, and evolved. Something well-defined, confined to a topic and expounded upon; then revised, revised again and again and edited by a friend, and then by another and then edited by me, and with the original and perfect work I had created, Published. What a wonderful word! I even had a secret vision of how the after-progression might look---friends, tons and tons of friends, from Facebook, Twitter, from real life, and new friends I didn't even know existed who accidentally Googled Skyler Fike's very first blog post would all gather digitally around an LED-backlit, flat-screen fire waiting to be warmed by amateur brilliance. And this new warmth would mark the start of a merely avocational yet overwhelmingly successful story of self-glory. But self-glory is unfulfilling and short-lived.
This blog piece I had in mind was an essay, and this essay would have been my hard-fought attempt at breaking past all those wretched mental barriers I set up for myself as it related to addressing---through writing---the Audience. Presumably this piece would mark the end of all the insecurities I had about writing and displaying original work publicly; all the worries wrapped up in approval by others; all the reasons I had for not sharing what I wanted to share. Much to my disappointment, it floated patiently in a marshmallowy puff of irony known as the Cloud. And there, like in Texas, it wouldn't rain for a year.
Fortunately the rain came, but just a light drizzle. Perhaps it was more of a stagnant fog. There was evidence of moisture but I couldn’t see through it, and I wasn’t quite sure if it was actually falling from the sky or if the sky itself came down to meet me. My Motive and the Non-Existing Audience; A Preface, it would be titled. Fancy, right? It’s a basically a snobby, dressed-up way of saying: Okay, time to define myself and what my intentions are, and make myself known to the world. Also, Mr. and Mrs. Audience, you’re not real, and I hate you. And please don’t judge me. Okay. Now I’m safe. Time to begin writing. Inspiration for such a title came from a book I was reading at the time: Walden; or, Life in the Woods by Thoreau. But I’m not Thoreau, so originality would need to come from me and not a copied version of something else. However, despite the intentional masquerade of a title, it exposed to me the wrenching honesty in how I viewed people, myself, and public opinion.
The resultant of such self-exposure also revealed the next part of the process: breaking through the internal barriers---a process that was and still is overwhelming, cumbersome, and tiring. There were many. Too many. And as much as I would love to blame others for their tall construction, these barriers were mostly by the labor of my own my own heart and mind. I say “were” as if this is something that still doesn’t perpetually fester, but this is not the case; the barriers still exist. Resistance barrels forward with the hope of pummeling all of my endeavors.
First, there were the little voices in my head---the ones that whispered powerfully to the deepest recesses of my subconscious decades ago---these are the most dominant. You just aren’t a writer. It’s not what you do. You won’t be good at it. Just stick to what you’re good at. (The last one is my personal favorite. I imagine someone telling this to a seven-year-old and wonder how if we all lived by that principle if we would have any recognizable form of a people who tried new things and succeeded.) Perhaps of all the struggles of writing, or any creative endeavor for that matter, conquering the voices of the interior are the most challenging. These words begin by growing on us after words are thoughtlessly spoken by someone close, someone who we trust deeply---the ones who so strongly speak to our vulnerable youth. Personally, I’m not sure which souls manifest which voices of resistance specific to each creative endeavor, but I do recollect the voice who spoke to me about writing. I try, though, to ignore this voice, or calm it to some degree, because since that time the voice that once discouraged me actually became a voice of reinforcing confidence, oddly. Notwithstanding the new voice of encouragement, however, it still whispers quite often. And while the soul which spoke the first words now speaks differently, the battle is still a battle, and still weighty on my own soul.
Further, words grow with us--perhaps they solely are responsible for growing us, like water to a small tree after being planted. While simply staring at them, the seemingly tiny little insertions should bear no heaviness or truth; but, they’re deceptive in that way. Diamond rings, too, are small, but have a great impact on the mind. Over time we begin to identify ourselves with these crystallized words and phrases and call them ultimate truth, even identity. We then become paralyzed. They give birth to every other destructive thought and feed the newborn to healthy adulthood. Hence, hushing the silent shouts is much more of a burden than we would like to believe them to be. We should take those dirty voices, as Anne Lamott says, call them rodents, and one by one drop them into a glass jar, seal the lid shut, and turn down the invisible volume knob. Once the voices subside, working uninhibitedly becomes possible.
Now while the voices sneer and domineer and remain unsettled, they don’t have to drive the subconscious to creative suicide, it’s just that we often give them permission to do so. In my own writing practice--albeit a novice one consisting mainly of journaling and scribbling down outlandish thoughts and ideas--tearing down the tall walls and baby-stepping toward creative redemption means using the problem to defeat itself. What was causing the voices in my head to reawaken after slumbering for so long? It made no sense. What was I so fearful of in the present that felt so much like the ghosts of the past? It was the terrifying entity known as: Audience. Whether it was one person or some collective of friends, or an auditorium filled by voices past, they haunted me (and still do). The audience, internally, speaks the once-thought truths back into my subconscious. After all, those who I was once close to at a young age were my only audience. And once the original audience obliterates the birthing of creative hope, redeeming the truth of a later audience seems impossible. And since I’m being honest, it’s quite easy to become paralyzed by the opinion of others (i.e. the fear of man). After all, they are the false, made-up manifestations of the little voices and an unfortunate but all too convenient mechanism of justification that insecure people (me) use as an excuse to not follow through, or we just surrender.
By way of process I realized that I am that insecure person, and the only way to destroy conceptions of audience and redeem creative security is to realize that the voices are merely conceptions, and the internal audience is something I invented. I am responsible for creating the maturated yells of the once-quiet whispers. And thus, only I---like Thoreau---decide whether to dwell for 26 months in the forest of my mind, build a house, plant a garden, eat, sweat, bleed, and tirelessly tear past the barriers of things internal, or wave the white flag.