Friday, January 8, 2016

The Artist's Way: Week One


I am doing The Artist's Way!  The Artist's Way is a 12-week program where you do a variety of exercises to help "unblock" yourself as an artist.  My goal is to start acting on my random creative impulses and have more fun with my artist side, instead of just shunting off all my ideas to the "maybe someday" part of my brain.

On the way, I intend to write about the experience.  This is week one!  So far there are things that I love (let's call them "hearts") and things I am skeptical about (let's call them "hmmmmmmmms").

Week one is titled Recovering a Sense of Safety.  The big idea here is to counteract some of the negative beliefs we have about artists and the associated fears that might be holding us back.  Beliefs that artists are all drunk, broke, and unhappy/mentally unstable, for example.  It's about finding the root of those negative beliefs and taking away their power.


HEARTS:

The Morning Pages: The Morning Pages is the number one, top practice The Artist's Way teaches.  If you tell anyone you're doing The Artist's Way and they are at all familiar, they will probably say something like, "oh, so you're doing morning pages."  Basically, every morning you write 750 words.  That's it.  750 words of whatever.  Stream of consciousness.  Get what's running through your mind on the paper.

I can totally see how this will be beneficial and would be good for everyone, no matter what they do with their lives.  The practice of writing down every thought, every concern, worry, and responsibility, alongside all your gratitude and happiness, is pretty therapeutic.  It's a total release.

The best part, for me, is the word count.  The word count does two things: one, it keeps it from taking too long, because if you don't have a point where you're "done", you could write out every thought in your head for days.  I used to just freehand journal in the morning and it wound up eating wayyyy too much of my morning, which is why I stopped.

The second is that you got to start off your day FINISHING something.  It's a daily practice of completion.  You write until it's done.  You don't judge, evaluate, or shape it.  You don't give up because it's not quite working.  You get it done.  The utility of this has already seeped into my other writing.  It reminds me to just do and keep doing until I am done.

The Artist Date: At first I was skeptical about this one.  The idea is that your inner artist is this child that needs to be nurtured, so you should take it on a date, which is cheesy but fine.  She refers to it as "filling the artist tank", which totally makes sense.  All of Julia Cameron's suggestions, however, sound like some Manic Pixie Dream Girl, live each day like it's your last, let's go really experience the world hoopla: go for a walk and really notice the world!  Eat a meal and really, truly, experience your food!  Smell it!  Are you smelling it? Did you taste ALL the flavours??? When you prepared it, did you notice every single time you chopped the carrot?  Did you FEEL it?  Ugh.  Really?

Then I did a little research online, though, and now I get it.  It's literally a time you set aside to just do a fun thing you want to do.  It can be making something, watching something, or doing something.  Like, anything that isn't lying around in a Netflix binge, basically.  It is the life-changing idea that we need to do things once and a while.  That we need to start tuning back into those little inner urges that say "hey, let's check that out!"

The affirmations: This week, at least, one of the exercises is to do affirmations.  Every morning after completing my Morning Pages, I say nice things to myself about how I'm a prolific artist and I am channeling God's creativity and stuff like that.  It's totally cheesy, but as someone who has battled depression in the past and won, in part, due to positive affirmations and gratitude practices, I am all over this.

The spiritual bent: I have a kind of faltering but ever-present spiritual intention in my life.  Of late, it's been more falter than intent, and I think that a practice founded on the idea that we are connected to a creative source (God) will be very useful.  It also helps the art not be egotistical or self-serving if it's about channeling/getting in touch with something bigger than I am (I am always in favour of Something Bigger Than Me).


HMMMMMMMMMS:

The Recovery Talk: Oh goodness, are we all these delicate, bruised roses that need to be coddled back to our blooming glory?  I get it, a lot of people have beat up their little inner artist so much that they are covered in wounds and need to be gently guided back into trusting themselves.

Sure, growing up it was often suggested to me that art makes a great hobby after I was asked how I would make a living, and maybe I've just begun to believe my oppressors, but I don't think that was wrong of people to ask.  We don't have a patronage system anymore, so if you are going to be a full-time artist you kind of need to be a business person and marketer too.  You need to think through how you are going to make your art lucrative.  You need to study, apply for grants, pitch to galleries, set up websites with online shops, network, and run Instagram accounts.  Let's be honest, Julia Cameron makes zillions of dollars marketing an empire of products surrounding The Artist's Way, and that's not all just a result of following her inner artist's bliss.  It's business acumen.

All that to say, I don't feel like my inner artist is this poor, neglected child who needs to be gently coaxed out into the sunlight.  All I'm looking for is to give her more room to play.

The Childish Tasks: Some of the tasks are great.  Obviously the Morning Pages and the Artist Date are already wins to me.  I'm doing the affirmations and am fully on board with them.

This week, however, I'm also supposed to be identifying the "monsters" in my life who held me back and scared my sweet little artist into hiding behind my spleen.  I'm to write childlike rebuttals to put them in their place and draw pictures of them with boogers on their faces.

I don't know.  That just seems silly.  I can't even think of anyone, and if I could, I wouldn't want to call them names and black out their teeth, because I know they weren't trying to quash my dreams.  They were trying to love and support me the best they knew how.  No monsters here, just people doing their best.

Resistance Dismissal: If I had a "Hall of Monsters" who had murdered my innocent young artist I might see this differently, but what kind of gets me about this is the fact that Julia Cameron makes a point of dismissing any resistance you may feel to the tasks.  Basically, if I feel like I don't want to do something, it's not because the exercise doesn't suit me, it's because I am resisting recovery and sticking with my comfortably familiar (but painful) state of suffocated dreams.

To her, The Artist's Way is not wrong or needing modification, only my attitude needs adjusting.  This, of course, starts to remind me of a common religious reasoning whenever something doesn't work out: "it's never God's fault, it's always your fault, you faithless sinner."  That kind of logic is never very helpful, if you ask me.

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