Week four of The Artist's Way is titled Recovering a Sense of Integrity. The basic idea here is to start to recognize and embrace how you really feel about things. What you really want and think. It's all about being honest with yourself.
The idea is that you can't create anything honest until you are being real with yourself. If you are spending all your time pretending to like things you don't really get or to care about things that bore you, you will never be able to make something that is truly meaningful.
Here are two of the practical challenges/ideas that flowed from this chapter:
Warning: during the fourth week of The Artist's Way, you are not allowed to read.
Sounds like torture, right?
Unfortunately, the logic behind this deprivation is sound: the less time you fill with input, the more you are forced to output. If you don't occupy your time by taking in the creative work of others, you are going to have to do something to fill that time, and that something will eventually emerge from within you, whether it's finally starting to write a sonnet, singing your heart out, having a dance party for one, or rearranging your furniture.
This challenge reminded me once again that this book is best experienced with a less-full schedule. The idea was supposed to be that I would have acres of time to fill that I would need to find some other way to occupy. Except that I had work in the daytime and things I had to do every evening afterwards, so there wasn't all that much down time.
That said, I still did get to make some changes. I assumed that Julia Cameron didn't want me to get fired, so I still read things I needed to read while at work (emails, for example, are unavoidable), but I did eliminate the little time-fills I have grown accustom to: reading while I eat breakfast, watching TV while I clean the house, listening to talk radio while I get ready in the morning. Instead I filled the silence (because silence is the worst) with instrumental music.
It made a difference. It's no surprise that having TV or other talking on the background is a bit of a tether. Instead of just giving my subconscious some noise to follow, it grabs my conscious mind and ties it down, just a little. It makes it harder for me to shift activities, turn off, or even imagine my own stories.
I'd like to say that this experiment motivated me to shun the voices of others to fill the silence, and that I now let Bach accompany me through a creative and productive life, but that would be a lie. As soon as my week was up, I had Netflix on in the background once again while I cooked dinner.
Still, a good reminder.
The Power of the Purge
I generally get pretty attached to things, and if something has sentimental value, especially if someone has given it to me as a gift, I feel compelled to hold onto it for the rest of time. Last winter I started to feel a big inner drive against that hoarder instinct and started to let go of things - it felt incredible.
This week one of the things Julia Cameron discusses is that as we become more in tune with ourselves and what we really want, we become free to shuck off the things we don't want. A closet, home, or life full of the old and unwanted does not leave room for the new and welcome.
Now, the book focuses mostly on getting rid of stuff, but I don't think that's really my big problem. Sure, I have a bit of a hoarder tendency that I need to deal with, and it's hard sometimes to let go of things, but I'm already going down that path.
If we're talking about making room in our lives, though, my biggest challenge isn't going to be purging stuff. What I really need to do is purge plans.
As a perfect case in point: this week, and with most weeks of The Artist's Way so far, I have not really felt like I had the time to really delve into the intended experiences of the practice. Why? Because I had a week full of plans.
I regularly skim through my calendar, disheartened at how full it is, with no idea of how to bring it down. Rarely is there something in there that I actually don't want to do, and if there is, it's probably linked to an obligation that (at least for the time being) I can't shake.
So I got rid of unwanted clothes, like Julia Cameron instructed, but I still have no idea what to do with my schedule. When nothing is unwanted except for the sheer volume, what do you do?