The Artist’s Way – week three

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

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 bonsai 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

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.