“Don’t try to figure out what other people
want to hear from you;
figure out what you want to say.”
~ Barbara Kingsolver
You know that thing you did as a kid? That thing where you vibrated your lips in a remarkable impression of a motorboat? It involved a sort of random humming as your lips rumbled and rolled. Sometimes this was done while running around in circles or sliding across the kitchen linoleum or maybe while sitting in the back seat of the car, especially while going down a bumpy road.
Yesterday I went to my first singing lesson.
That aforementioned childhood lip hum was part of the lesson. Yes indeed, it seems I spent good money on lessons that involved making my lips buzz.
But hey. There were other moves. Some included flinging my arms around.
Did I mention I paid for this?
I’m not sure why I decided I needed singing lessons.
But I think it’s because every book on writing will wax on forever about the need to ‘find your voice’. I don’t believe that it’s only writers who need to do this. We all do. No matter who we are or what we do. To me, being fully human and fully engaged, means examining what matters, what is true, what is not. That is voice. So I think I assumed learning to sing would quite literally bring out another aspect of my voice…
If we are blessed enough to still be alive (and so far, right this minute, that includes you and me), then life demands we find out who we are – which means finding our voice as we decide what we stand for.
Writing has certainly helped me to do this. It forces me to put my thoughts down on the page and then to throw those words out into the light of day for everyone to see. It feels courageous…every single time. Kind of like standing on the street in your underwear.
Always, always it comes back to finding my truest voice: What do I think? What do I believe?
But once the words are finally published, the fear dissipates and I am left with a satisfying sense of accomplishment, like I have somehow become more of myself.
Which is why I thought singing lessons might be helpful…
After driving up a long potholed gravel road, I turned down a dirt driveway. At the end of it, I found a little studio. Hanging over a forested ravine, the sound of a creek rushing past the green and dark, windows to the floor.
I felt a slight shiver of anxiety as I stood at the door and knocked.
But I’ve discovered that things that terrify me are often the very things that make me feel the most alive.
Since singing lessons fall under that kinda-scary category, I was hoping that this would this would once again prove to be true.
Sure enough, by the end of that lesson, I was vibrating. My body sang. Every cell oxygenated.
It was almost as exhilarating as that time I went coasteering in the Irish Sea or flung myself into the Oribi Gorge in South Africa, but with a whole lot less of chance of dying – which, it must be said, is always a bonus.
I whooped and yelled all the way home, radio cranked and body tingling. In short, there was no doubt at all that I was one fully-alive, fully-engaged being who was in the throes of discovering another aspect of voice.
Did I mention I can’t wait for next week’s lesson?
Children are encouraged to explore new activities all the time, but why should kids have all the fun and excitement?
So here’s my challenge: think of something you’d like to do. Something that maybe scares you a little.
Got it? Good. Now go do it. (And, if you’re so inclined, I’d love it if you told me all about in the comments below).
And now, if you’ll please excuse me. I have some serious arm-flinging and lip-humming to do.
“Write about what disturbs you, what you fear,
what you have not been willing to speak about.
Be willing to be split open.”
~ Natalie Goldberg
If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you would share it. Thanks!