Walking the Artist's Way: Week Two

Week Two: Recovering a Sense of Identity

As I traverse through this twelve-week program to creative recovery, I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts with you.  Though I don’t necessarily connect with all the tropes of a “blocked artist,” I have lived life for nearly a decade denying my creative desires, covering up my true purpose because I thought it was “impractical,” and inhabiting the land of What-If and If-Only.  Want to journey along with me?  Pick up a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way here, and jump on in.  

General Thoughts:  This week, I was called to dig deeper.  I was more in touch with my emotions, and I found ways to leverage them (ahem….poetry—more on that later). Julia wanted us to end this week more in tune with a self-defined sense of identity, and I think the exercises were spot-on in helping me accomplish that feat. It is worth noting that I have adopted my own timeline for my practice…it’s more like 1.5 weeks per chapter, but I hope to pick back up on Julia’s intended pace soon. Julia addressed some of the difficulties we have staying true to our creative path, both in the form of outer critics and inner skeptics.

I found some parts of this week’s reading to be particularly difficult.  Julia mentioned the importance of fostering our inner artist, and protecting her from “poisonous playmates,” or people who may be inclined to naysay your creative ways. “ [Creatively] Blocked friends may find your recovery disturbing.  Your getting unblocked raises the unsettling possibility that they, too, could become unblocked and move into greater creative risks rather than bench-sitting cynicism” (Cameron 43). How many of these people I have met in my life!  It is upsetting to me when people are needlessly critical of books, movies, music, art, etc.  I’ve heard countless “I could do that better’s” from so many individuals who, quite simply, aren’t even attempting to do “it.”  I think it is okay to not find meaning or resonance in every piece of art (different strokes), but it is not okay to dispense endless negative critique.  If you don’t like it, don’t read it/look at it/watch it, and move on.

Julie also reminds us that our inner skeptic will be looking for reasons to contribute our wins in these weeks as flukes or coincidence or the placebo effect.  Keeping that inner skeptic at bay hasn’t been too hard, as I hushed that whiny bitch three months or so in my soul’s journey.  I could see it being more difficult if this is your first foray back into God and universal power, though.  Since I am now God’s #1 cheerleader and addicted to playing in universal consciousness, I’ve been pretty chill and unskeptical.

I do like Julia’s acronym for God: Good Orderly Direction.  #preachjulia

Artist’s Date: I finally settled on going to City Lights Booksellers after waffling around like a maniac for the better half of the morning.  I had the idea that I would spend the whole day at a museum, soaking in the information other people had created to tell their stories.  Looking back on my morning pages, I found that I was ridiculously tired that day (as I have been most days, which apparently troubles me, also according to my morning pages), so I opted to take a ninety minute nap instead of heading to MOMA.  I had a bit of reserve time between clients, though, so that little blip allowed me enough time to head over to City Lights Booksellers and see what there was to see.  This was another one of those places that just sort of appeared to me, not in meditation like the SF Botanical Garden, but it beckoned me as I drove by each week.  

My best discovery was, without a doubt, the “poetry room.”   I had never been in a space dedicated exclusively to poetry before, so I found this thrilling.  I immediately spotted the book of poetry I had loved, but had also just returned to the library: Self-Portrait as a Wikipedia Entry by Dean Rader.  Taking it as a sign, I bought it, along with and a copy of Kerouac’s previously unpubbed poems, titled “Pomes All Sizes.” The actual experience was much shorter than the botanical garden (25 minutes vs. 2.5 hours), but the aftershock was massive.  When I got home from tutoring that night, I felt compelled to churn out a poem immediately.  This is uncharacteristic.  Usually when I get home at 10pm, all I want to do is sleep my face off.  I am pretty sure I was actually being possessed.  The more artistic way to put that is I was channeling a muse, I suppose.  Channel I did, and channel I continue to do.  I feel like a gentle ghost of a poetess decided to join the riff raff I carry around in my brain, and help me make sense of the world in a more emotional way.  She always has the right words, and it is pretty damn exciting.  Her voice is more grounded, though.  Not necessarily somber, but this hop-on wordsmith has less desire to write about the esoteric stuff I love and more of a longing to observe the world we see on a daily basis. She’s reflective, but she keeps it real. Such an interesting phenomenon.

Morning Pages:  Randy and I were talking about my morning pages, and I was making him promise he would never, ever publish them.  Like, even after I bite it and its been a decade and the people are longing for more written word from inside the goofball island amusement park that is my brain.  Truth be told, I rarely remember the stuff that ends up in my morning pages after I put it down.  That tends to be the course of events when you are 68% still sleeping and a little reluctant to write down three pages first thing each early AM.  Well, today I started to look back and read a few entries.  I figured enough time had passed, and I had erased some of my judgment towards myself and the process.  

I do love being able to whine and get all my weird worries and insecurities out on paper, so that my brain is free to think about other things later.  But, sometimes, my mind/soul/muse decides to join in on the MP fun, I discovered, as the most beautiful notes for the most beautiful poem/short personal essay were scrawled in between my complaining about not being asleep and my concerns about how much almond butter to eat for breakfast.  I found, betwixt those things,  a whole damn page of beauty.  I have no shame calling it that, because it was me, but not-me who wrote that.  I understand now, truly, what Elizabeth Gilbert means by ideas seeking us out, not the other way around.  I’ve had this happen so many times (my whole novel, for example), but I had never had the fully formed words come to me so easily, apparently.  This wasn’t a one-off, either.  There were insights about me, written in a tired scrawl that is mine but yet not entirely recognizable, sprinkled throughout the pages. I am wholly dedicated to the belief that my morning pages are magical.   So magical that I might have to allow its publication (posthumously, of course).

The verdict after 2+ weeks of doing this?  RADICAL. SHIFTS.  I am more prolific.  I am more motivated. Most importantly, I am less afraid of creative risk, and less afraid of the shadows I find when I dig deep into my infinite inner worlds to parse out my next project.