The Artist's Way: Week Nine
Week nine of the Artist's Way is called Recovering a Sense of Compassion, which is fitting since I was jumping back onto the wagon after weeks of ignoring it.
FEAR AND THE CREATIVE U-TURN
The first thing she brings up is fear, pointing out that we often re-label our fear as laziness. Our fear blocks us from starting, and then we beat ourselves up for not working hard enough. Whether it's fear of failure or fear of success, it holds us back big time. When we procrastinate, how often is it because we are afraid? Julia Cameron would say all of the time, but I don't like absolutes, so I'd say most of the time.
She also introduces the concept of creative U-turns, something that was a new one to me, but I think it's fantastic. It's the abandoning of a creative project just as it's taking off. Suddenly deciding that this story is stupid, or that painting will never work. Having someone offer to represent you and then never calling them because they aren't the "perfect" person to represent you, never mind that it would be a start.
I know that I abandon things just as they are getting hard a lot. I have always been a person who finds starting pretty easy, and who can pick up a new skill to a beginner level fairly quickly. Then all of a sudden, it gets hard and I don't like it anymore. The perfect example of this for me is writing stories - I have a lot of ideas for stories I want to write, but I find it a lot harder than writing non-fiction pieces. So what do I do? I get started and then just when I'm working through the hard part, I decide that the story is stupid and I walk away from it.
GETTING THROUGH BLOCKS
So how do you get through your blocks? She provides some steps to do this that I am really excited to try. Do this before you start a new project:
1) List any resentments (anger) you have associated with this project. No matter how stupid or childish it is, treat them as big deals and write them down. This can include resenting not being asked first, working for someone you don't like, that the subject matter isn't exciting, whatever.
2) List all your fears to do with the project. Again, treat all the fears, no matter how childish or small, as valid. If they exist, they matter. Are you afraid it will be bad but you won't realize it? That the whole thing is kind of passé? That you'll never finish? Write them down.
3) Go back. Ask yourself if that is all, or if there are more. Is there anything else that you didn't even want to admit to yourself? The thing that seemed the silliest or the scariest? The stuff you're avoiding admitting to yourself probably has the most influence over you. Write that down, too.
4) Look at what you have to gain by not doing the project. If you don't do it, what do you gain? Do you save yourself from criticism? Do people worry about you if you don't follow through and then you get attention? Do you get to avoid facing what you're really capable of?
5) Make a deal with yourself and the Creator to do it. The deal Julia Cameron writes is, "Okay, Creative Force, you take care of the quality, I'll take care of the quantity." Then you do it.
HAVE FUN WITH IT
One other thing she talks about in this chapter is to remember that creative work isn't just hard, disciplined work. There has to be an element of play. Of make believe. Of fun. Sure, sitting down and doing your job and getting it done matters, but also having fun with it. To be honest, I am not sure exactly how I feel about this, because writing (or other creative stuff) isn't always playful bliss to me. Sometimes it's painful, ridiculously hard work. Sometimes I feel like I am sticking my head in a vice and squeezing until words painfully ooze onto my computer screen. But I do it because that terrible feeling is better than not doing it. Not doing it is much, much worse.
That said, remembering to play and have fun is a really really good way to try to have some of that compassion for my artist self. I don't always have to be diligently forcing myself to produce.
So let's try it! Let's try actually recognizing our fears and resentments, and then actually doing things anyways.