The Artist’s Way – week eight

Overview

This week has been hard, in many ways. I was on a roll with the morning pages, until I forgot once, and then ten days passed until I got back to it, and I completely forgot to do the affirmations. I’m not happy with how long it’s taken to get through this week; since taking up an evening class, the time I have to work on the weekly tasks seems to have gone down dramatically.

I need to organise my time better, to make space to do the weekly tasks, but also to make time for myself. The ideal childhood and day tasks were fun and I have some ideas of how I can pursue integrating elements of them into my life – when the same desire (structured lessons, more time to do studies and materials practice) comes up in three separate exercises, I should probably act on it!

Morning pages

As I said my morning pages have huge gaps in them where I fell off the waggon and struggled to get back on. My routine had been to write while eating breakfast at work, but as soon as the weekend hit, everything fell apart. And writing t work is dependent on who gets in early and how chatty they’re feeling – but that’s on me, not them. I’m trying to write something introspective in a public place and it’s unreasonable to expect other people not to have a conversation (especially when we’re friends and I am usually interested in what they have going on).

Having moved desks again (the second time in three weeks), hopefully the new space will offer a little more seclusion. My office-mates aren’t such obnoxiously early risers as I am, so maybe I’ll get half an hour to write my brain-dump before I need to interact with people like an adult.

Artist’s date

I leaned about nålebinding this ‘week’, and gave it a go. It’s my first ever attempt at anything like this  – I’ve never been into fibre crafts – but it doesn’t require a lot of complicated stuff – just a ball of wool, a wool needle, and time.

First attempt on the top, latest attempt on the bottom – definite progress is being made in terms to stitch quality and consistency.

Unsuprisingly,  I’m rubbish at it. My stitches are uneven and the one time I tried to make a thing (instead of a chain of stitches), I fastened the wrong sides together and made a Möbius strip. So much for a hat; guess it’s a fancy neckwarmer now! I’m going to keep going. My stitches have improved already and a neckwarmer will be useful as winter draws in. Maybe I’ll felt it to make it windproof (but that’s a whole new skill I have yet to learn).

It’s not perfect, but it’s mine

Verdict

I’m pleased with my new skill, and I love that I’m making something practical for a change. I’m clearly hankering after more structure to my artwork and less charging ahead with finished pieces that are ultimately unsatisfying in their execution. Such morning pages as I wrote are offering a window into my mental health status, so there’s some self-care to do, too.
Although I’m not consistent, I am glad I’m doing them.

If I want to finish the course before the end of the year, I needs to schedule my time better. I’m still playing with new things and kicking around new ideas, so something’s bedding in. I’m aiming to finish Week Nine in a fortnight with a full set of morning pages – watch this space!

The Artist’s Way – week seven

Overview

Another 21-day week, but I got most of the tasks done this time, so its not all bad.

I made cupcakes that i hoped would smell delicious, but my partner just complained they smelled of burned chocolate. They weren’t burned, thankyouverymuch, just a bit odd – but I suppose that’s what you get from mystery dry cake mix and no instructions. They might have been supposed to be brownies for all I know!

The collage was fun – like being at primary school again – and I found a suprising number of things related to my intetests in some otherwise normal magazines. Not everything, though, and a lot got dumped for space constraints.

Collage featuring representations of my interests

I’ve been falling back into some sort of spiritual practice and I attribute it to the Artist’s Way. I’m more mindful of my actions, express gratitude more frequently, and am trying to make a habit of saying small blessings or prayers before meals. I feel better for it – more emotionally connected to myself and my surroundings – and intend to follow the inclination and see where it leads.

Morning pages

The morning pages are still provong tricky. They’re rarely done in the morning and often under the influence of a profound desire to get to sleep, so they’re pretty rambling most of the time. I see myself making excuses and I’m catching myself doing it, the trick is now to turn that awareness into action.

Artist’s date

My artist’s date this week was indulging in a long-neglected hobby of mine – making sigils and reading about various magic(k)al theories and practices –  and exploring how I could integrate them into my paintings.

Jealousy matrix

I struggled with this one! I just don’t find myself feeling jealous so much these days, and I don’t know that I want to force feelings of jealousy, having put so much effort into self-care and overcoming those unhealthy thought processes. I don’t think it’s within the intention of the program.

Verdict

Despite the length of time I’m taking to complete these weeks, I’m making steady progress. I’m building on last week’s lesson and taking chances and exploring things I’d like to do if I didn’t have to be perfect, and found that – once I let go of the anxiety surrounding them – I generally enjoy myself.

I’m still a bit uptight – decades of reinforcement can’t be undone overnight – but I’m happier to openly suck at things.

The Artist’s Way – week six

Overview

Cameron wants us to press flowers and collect rocks this week.

I’ve never pressed flowers, and I don’t intend to start now. Plus it’s mid-September, so flowers are a but thin on the ground, but I found a few, plus some interesting leaves, and took photos instead.

In the same vein, I’m not keen of taking rocks out of the environment. They have a job to do and I’m not going to deprive some poor bug of its home because I think it’s shiny.

Happily, I can take all the photos I like:

Morning pages

I’m still not doing the morning pages regularly. Because time is tight in the mornings, they often get left to the end of the day, which means they often don’t get done.

I spent some time writing about the nature of god, why I can’t believe in Cameron’s Creator, and what I do believe in, then I reread the instructions and discovered she wanted me to write about ‘creative luxury’. This isn’t the the first time the instructions have been inconsistent and I doubt it will be the last.

I will confess to resenting the time spent writing the morning pages, because my brain insists I could be using the tine to do something, as if writing isn’t a) something, and b) really flipping useful.

Artist’s date

My creative luxury is time.

I’m in a very fortunate position where I can afford to buy myself almost whatever creative toys I like (my desires are usually limited to a particular colour of paint or a new book), but actually finding time to use them is another matter.

I indulged myself on Friday, splashing around with Brusho and Inktense pastels and generally having fun. I’m not expecting anything good to come out of these sessions, but I’m allowing myself to fail, and that’s a luxury I haven’t allowed myself before this course.

The Artist’s Way – week five

Overview

This ‘week’ involved a long holiday – a week in Vienna followed by a week with friends – so there wasn’t much time for introspection or privacy. My morning pages suffered accordingly, but I’ve been reading voraciously (albeit off my reading list, but reading is reading). I’ve been physically exhausted by the heat, mentally exhausted by translating/coping with the language barrier, and emotionally exhausted by the lack of exercise.
I am surprised by how much better I feel having got away from work. I think it’s the change in routine and the relaxation of stress – much like the reading deprivation, reducing the amount of input I have to deal with is something I should be seriously looking at.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • Making time to write my morning pages
  • Keeping with the weekly schedule

Morning pages

An improvement over last week – I managed two days! Out of six weeks, but still: two days is better than none!
If I’m honest with myself, I’ve not made this a priority and not really worked at making it a habit. Next week, I’m going to make a serious effort to nailing this. The pages have been useful and, when I get to them, I enjoy writing them.

Artist’s date

Okay, so this might have been a cheat – for my birthday, my parents bought me a Big Cat day at the Jessop’s Academy, learning how to use my DLSR. It was a fantastic experience and I’m much more confident about setting the aperture and ISO and not just resorting to some flavour of automatic. Next up: shutter speed!

Verdict

The exercises were moderately easy this week but, despite my lofty announcement that “I’m doing this on my own schedule”, I feel like I’m missing out on a lot by leaving such large gaps between weeks.

I’m going to take a week of making time to write the morning pages (at any time of day!) before starting week six. Try to reinforce the foundations before building any higher.

The Artist’s Way – week four

Overview

This was the week of the reading ban. I decided to update the instructions, given that my copy of TAW was published in 1992:

  • No books
  • No news or articles, via online or print media
  • No phone games
  • 10 minutes of social media/day

The other news to come out of this week is that, via a sequence of coincidences, I have developed a new Special Interest: runes.
After helping out at DragonFest at West Stow Anglo-Saxon village, I chanced upon Lauren Panepinto’s Muddy Colors articles on art and magic [1] [2] [3] and, as a result, I ended up picking up a set of rune stones and starting to read voraciously (after the reading deprivation, obviously).
Between learning the the staves themselves (in all four variations), memorising the ideographic interpretations with all their nuances, learning how to write in runic (and thereby adding Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic to my ‘to learn’ list), boggling over the rune riddles, learning about runic cryptography, practising making bind-runes, and figuring out how I could use a combination of those things in my art, that’s given me quite a lot to play with. And that’s just the rune-work! Let’s not get into my decision to make a Lenormand deck and start tinkering around with sigils.

Reading deprivation

The main thing that surprised  me about this exercise was that I didn’t miss reading books. For anyone who knows me, especially anyone who knew me as the kid who mastered walking, eat and even brushing their teeth while reading, that’s pretty shocking! I definitely don’t have a book-reading issue, but that’s been replaced by a phone-checking problem. I used the Leechblock plugin to curtail my browsing on a desktop and Extreme Power Saving mode to short-circuit the habit of checking apps on my phone and, although my social media use dropped off fairly easily, I was compulsively checking my messages (I decided I ought to be able to talk to people and not drop off the face of the Earth for a week, a mistake in hindsight – if I hadn’t been able to check at all, I might have found the task easier). I worried that I was setting myself up for future issues by simply adding interesting articles to Pocket to read later, but since coming off the deprivation, I simply wasn’t that interested in the articles and deleted them.
Being disconnected from the world definitely improved my mental health and it’s a practice I’d like to repeat periodically.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • Keeping to my 10 minute social media limit
  • Checking messenger as a substitute for reading/games
  • Remembering to turn on Extreme Power Saving mode
  • Restraining myself from buying too many books
  • Keeping myself focused on the projects I’m already working on
  • Making time to do my morning pages

Morning pages

A complete wash: between the 4th of July and the 23rd, I didn’t do any morning pages.

Artist’s date

I don’t know if I did a specific artist’s date this week.
Unfortunately, I wrote my checkin in stages, so I’m writing this bit nearly six weeks after I started. I can see from my planner that I made more of an effort to get out of my own head, meeting friends and working on physical, non-art projects – my rocking chair is dismantled, sanded, and ready for new springs, which I ordered this week. Interesting and tiring and fulfilling, but not ‘play’.

Verdict

All in all, it’s been a big week, and discovering an interest in runes and the rekindling my lapsed spirituality gives me things to think about in Week Six, which has a stronger than usual emphasis on faith.

The Artist’s Way – week three

Overview

This chapter has been a nightmare.
Not through the exercises it’s asked me to do, but for multitude of reasons, including the death of a friend, which meant that a lot of things got deprioritised.

Thinking through who I admire and why, some (most) of my choices felt superficial. I know that they were based on the public persona of famous people, but I look up to the persona, not the person. I still love Ray Bradbury’s prose, even though I disagree with some of his personal opinions, and I’m pretty sure Carrie Fisher and I would have very little in common, but – based on what I know of her – she seemed amazing.

In the last few days, I’ve also started dreaming again. Nothing that makes any sense, and nothing that I can recall in the cold light of day, but I did recall having a dream for the first time in years.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • I’m pretty sure Quirk and Robbie are on their way out. It’s sad, but I tried my best. Apparently potting trees from the wild has a very low success rate. They might come back, once they’ve had time to recover. Only time will tell.
  • Real life taking priority. Everything in its own time, but it’s still a little frustrating.

Morning pages

I feel better for writing them, but I’m not sure they’re reaching as deeply as they need to. I definitely felt better about my bereavement after writing about it, but I think there’s more deep-seated stuff that I need to excavate and the pages aren’t touching it yet.

Artist’s date

I honestly can’t remember what I did for this. At one point, I said I was going to learn a magic trick, but I haven’t yet. I baked, maybe? Had a lie-in?

Verdict

This week dragged on so long and it’s been such a mental and emotional rollercoaster, I can’t remember most of it. I know I said working through this in my own time was fine, but I think I’ll try to pick up the pace!

The Artist’s Way – week two

Overview

This one got off to a tricky start. I didn’t re-read the chapter, and so missed out on some of the instructions, and took two weeks to complete this one. It’s okay, I’m doing this on my own and I can go at my own pace.

This chapter, Cameron talks a lot about “crazymakers” (her word, not mine). People who turn up at inopportune times and wreck your plans with utter disregard for your feelings or wellbeing. I don’t seem to have any in my life – they sound like the sort of ‘friends’ I’ve avoided or excised – so, instead of trying to disentangle myself from them, I examined my own behaviour. After all, Cameron said that such people are often blocked creative. I don’t thrive on attention – quite the opposite – and the idea of upsetting my friends genuinely concerns me. I could stand to do better (everyone could, probably), but the person I sabotage the most is myself.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • Morning pages

Morning pages

I had a chat with my therapist about them and he thinks they’re probably useful. He also suggested only writing two of them if time was an issue. I was hesitant – I’d noticed that I start to uncover some significant thought processes around the one-and-a-half-pages mark and didn’t want to jeopardise that, but he reckons that the brain – when confronted with a finite amount of time/space – will put off doing the important work until it absolutely has to and that, by shaving a page off my writing, I’ll come to the same conclusions half a page earlier. I’ve been trying that for a few days, and it seems to be working out.

Artist’s date

I planned to go somewhere new this week, but life intervened and I ended up gardening instead (making hay while the sun shines). It’s been a while since I gardened and, in one of those fantastic coincidences, a chance conversation has reignited my old interest in bonsai at the same time that my weeding uncovered some oak saplings that had planted themselves way too close to the house, so I’m now the caretaker of two potted oak trees.

Quirk and Robbie
Quirk and Robbie

Because I’m a shameless nerd, I’ve dubbed them Quirk and Robbie. Quirk (in the foremost pot in the photo), and is a single root ball with with four trunks; pragmatic and fmily-orientated. Robbie (in the hindmost pot) may have become detatched from Quirk while I was digging them up, but is now an independant young thing looking to establish his own identity  (having given them name and personalities, their inevitable deaths as a result of my incompetence will crush me, but that’s future me’s problem).

Verdict

All things considered, this was a pretty chill week. The topics of my morning pages are still varying wildly – ideas for The Story With No Name one day, musings on mortality and grief the next, and whinging about how tired I am the day after. It’s a process and I am finding it useful; the switch to two pages doesn’t seem to have affected that too much.
I rated adventure and spirituality as the weakest points of my life this week, and I’ve been trying to think of ways to fill them up. Meditation has, ironically, been pushed out of my morning routine more often than not because the morning pages ran long. That said, the weather’s nice so I’m in the garden more and been trying to pay more attention to my environment during my my lunchtime walks, and I’m feeling more grounded in reality than I used to.

The Artist’s Way – week one

Overview

Having started this week with an attitude of “get it done and get to the good stuff”, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how cathartic some of the exercises have been. The artist’s date – a page from a ‘mindfulness’ colouring book – was particularly refreshing, and the exercise to write a letter to a champion led me to look up my old art teacher and find he’s still exhibiting.

The biggest issues I’ve faced this week have been:

  • writing the letters – short tasks are easier to fit into a busy schedule and, psychologically, ‘writing a letter’ is not a short task. When I actually got on with it, each letter was 20 minutes, tops.
  •  actually finding all the tasks – the Core Beliefs exercise, referenced in later weeks, is hidden in the middle of the chapter and I had to go dig for it. Lesson learned for the future – re-read the chapter before diving in.
  • finding time to do the morning pages. Cameron says leave 30 minutes, but I’m clocking in about 50. My regular morning routine is suffering because, despite getting up earlier, I only have time to do my pages before rushing off to work. That said, they’ve led to some noticeable mood shifts, so they’re clearly unjamming something in there.

Morning pages

My fight with the morning pages led me to look up other people who have struggled with them and found that there might be some contraindications for neuroatypical folk: Morning pages might not be the artist’s way

I don’t know that my pages have led me to dwell on negative thoughts – beyond how blasted tired I am – but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Artist’s date

As far as the artist’s date activity goes, I also haven’t done anything resembling play for a very long time – a dearth of time and a surfeit of stress means all that went out of the window years ago – so I’m cribbing date ideas from Ellen Bard’s list 101 ideas to boost your creativity.

This week’s date was a page from a colouring book. I’m sure the spooky ghooosts and creepy castles were seasonally-appropriate when I bought the magazine (back in 2015) – like I said: it’s been a while since I just let myself play around. It was really quite pleasant.

And then I immediately regretted wasting an afternoon on such frivolity. Baby steps.

Verdict

I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m feeling generally positive. This week wasn’t too rough, except for the damage to my morning schedule. I’m looking forward to next week.

The Artist’s Way – overview

I’ve owned a copy of The Artist’s Way for maybe ten years, but never actually started it (I did two days of morning pages when I first bought the book but immediately fell out of the habit and never picked it back up). Such is the life of a lot of my textbooks and workbooks. But I’ve decided that 2018 is the year I scale the foothills of my to-read pile; TAW is on the list, so here we go.

I’m starting by reading through the book before beginning the program, and I can already feel this is going to be a slog.

I understand that The Artist’s Way is based on a 12-step program and that surrendering to a higher power is part of that, but I’m not as religious as I once was and the frequent references to God/a creator are off-putting. In the early chapters, the tone is overly reassuring – bordering on coddling – and I feel spoken down to. Maybe it’s something other people will get more out of, but it’s not my thing and reading it was more a case of pushing through than actually enjoying it.
The early chapters didn’t throw anything up that I felt strongly about; I’ve been seeing a therapist for a while now, so maybe I’ve already worked through some of the baggage these chapters are designed to help with. Certainly, week one’s “write a letter to the editor in your defence” sounds like behaviour I would have indulged in a long time ago, but now it just seems silly. I’ll still do it – I’m either going to go through the program properly or not at all – but I don’t know how much I’ll get out of it.

Weeks three and four sound much more difficult. The idea of being ashamed of creating, of seeking impossible acceptance, already raises some feelings, and I’m so immediately opposed to the idea of reading deprivation that I know it’s going to throw up something profound.
The weeks get harder as they progress (obviously), digging deeper into things I thought I’d dealt with already but just reading the chapter immediately flags these up as something I’m going to have to work at.

Week seven is about perfectionism and jealousy, two things I thought I’d grown out of, but – even just skim-reading the book for an overview – I’m remembering feeling jealous of people for this or that as recently as a few weeks ago. Maybe it’s not something you ever grow out of , but we’ll see what’s under the surface.

Week eight is going to be looking at anxiety and procrastination. The notion of being too old is something I particularly struggled with in my 20s , and I still have Feelings about this topic, apparently.

Weeks nine and ten are about confronting fear disguised as self-recrimination, and self-sabotage respectively. I have an inkling this will be another emotional fortnight; I can feel the shape of the things I’ll be dealing with in these areas, even if not the fine detail.

The later exercises had less focus on letting go and letting the creator work or, at least the focus was less obvious. The last two chapters are about support systems and self-care and there’s an refrain that reminds me of a number of other books on creativity and the process of making art – that great artists share and they support each other. That the process of making art is an end unto itself, and that any fame and fortune that might or might not come with that is incidental.

My therapist said that all the self-help books in the world are just reiterating the same thing over and over but contextualising it differently. The trick is, he reckons, to find one that resonates with you.
A quick read-through suggests to me that TAW is more self-help than creativity manual, but it’s got a reputation and I’m reading it as part of my artistic development, so it goes on the blog.

All in all, I think I’ll definitely gain something from working through the book (even if it’s just shelf space after I pass it on), but only if I’m open to the ideas within and willing to put in the work. Each week concludes with a check-in, which I’ll be blogging about.

On with week one.