Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Artist's Way

A few weeks ago, I began to dip into the book, The Artist's Way. In case you don't know it, it's a 12-week workbook for creative people to get their creative lives back on track. (I'd never heard of it until someone recommended it to me, despite its having sold over a million copies).

One of the things that its creator, Julia Cameron, recommends is doing "morning pages"—three pages a day of stream-of-consciousness babbling, preferably as soon as you wake up. That's all I had been doing so far. That  explains my absence here because my morning pages (which I confess I often write in the early afternoon or even at dusk, or whatever is the soonest I have time to sit down and go at them) have replaced my attempts at blogging. I suppose that's because they serve a similar purpose for me—sharing my thoughts in the moment. Cameron recommends that people starting out with the program not look back at the morning pages for a while, so I can't dig through them looking for blog post fodder.

Today I began the first week of the program more or less in earnest. One of the things she suggests for this week is to work on affirmations and to listen for how your inner-censor will try to negate them. She calls these negative whispers "blurts." Listening for blurts is the real work here. She also offers a list of 20 common negatively held beliefs about being an artist. And there, at number 20, is mine: "20. It's too late. If I haven't become a fully functioning artist yet, I never will." The funny thing is that I said this to myself at the age of 30. It follows that if I haven't been published widely, it is too late; I am obviously not any good—never mind that I have been busy working jobs, rearing children, keeping house and pulling weeds in the garden, too busy to research markets, write cover letters and polish prose as much as I think it needs.

(I have always tried to assuage such negative talk with a reminder that Helen Hooven Santmyer published And Ladies of the Club at the age of 88; but looking at her entry in Wikipedia just now I see that she published a book when she was young, and continued to write and publish poetry while working as an English professor at Wellesley College. So that HHS story will no longer serve to soothe me.)

Does it matter when we create or how much we create as long as the desire to make something is not diminished? That is what I hope to teach myself this week. To stop whining and to just keep writing.

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