As I mentioned in my last post, I was feeling a little burned out on writing so I took a break. So, I celebrated finishing my Master’s degree—something I hadn’t taken time to appreciate when it happened in early January!
I decided to take at least a full week off from writing, and after that I’d kind of wing it. I also decided that I’d begin again to go through Julia Cameron’s great resource, The Artist’s Way. I’ll be documenting my experience here.
The first week is about recovery. Often we as artists are scared stiff about creating our art, for fear that it won’t be good, that we’ll find there’s nothing inside us to make art about, or because of trauma we’ve suffered from teachers, parents, well-meaning friends, enemies, or professors who have cut down our creative dreams.
The Artist’s Way makes use of two basic tools to work through some of these fears: daily morning pages and a weekly artist date. Every morning during the program you are required to hand-write three pages of whatever comes to mind—how tired you are, how your head is aching, you’re mad it’s raining again, or you’re excited for the weekend—whatever. It’s a mental and emotional dump at the start of the day, to process thought-clutter.
I find it easy to follow assignments. Hooray! Something I can control! Something I can measure!
The weekly artist date is practically torturous for me, which is funny because the “assignment” is this: plan a weekly date for yourself to do something fun. No one can tag along. You can do whatever you want. Fun. Too much freedom!
At the end of each week, you follow a check-in to reflect on how your use of those two tools is going, and anything else happening that’s significant for your creative recovery.
This week, I did my morning pages every day. Although I’ve been using them fairly regularly over the past year, I tend to skip them on the weekend. Last weekend I was traveling, and the practice of doing morning pages when I was away was refreshing—I wrote, “I feel like I’m bringing myself with myself.” In other words, I felt more fully present, less transplanted, by adhering to the simple practice no matter where I was.
Because I was traveling, the artist date had to wait until Monday night. I was planning to go to yoga, but I realized I’d spent all my discretionary money for the month of February (my husband and I are on a new budget!). I was proud of myself for sticking to the budget, so I went home and changed into comfortable clothes and lit candles and did a yoga DVD. Then I took a bubble bath.
For me, these two acts, especially on a weekday evening, were acts of radical self-care. Normally my weeknight takes on one extreme or the other: either I cook, eat, work out, run to the library or CVS or run a Bible study; or I simply collapse, in pajamas, in front of the TV. There seems to be no middle ground. So it was lovely to take some quality time to care for myself.
Still, in terms of artist’s dates, that was kind of on the tamer side. Two weeks ago, in practice for starting out the course again, I took myself out to the movies to see Silver Linings Playbook. I loved it. I plan to buy it as soon as it comes out on DVD. Go see it!
In terms of my creative recovery, I realized two things.
The first was on a silent retreat I attended with my dad, which was part of my Christmas present to him, at Cranaleith Spiritual Center in Philadelphia. It was a lovely space of rest, and I realized fully how spiritual rest is. I normally rest because it’s a physical necessity for me to keep up with my schedule, but I hadn’t realized just how deeply a spiritual practice it is.
The second was that in talking with my mom about goals—she was telling me about a leadership podcast she’d been listening to—I realized what my writing goals are. Over the past few months I’ve been kind of all over the place, wanting to start an ambitious new writing project (or two), pushing myself to write a certain number of pages in a set amount of time, and generally not knowing how to spend my writing time.
So, I decided. My main goal is not to start a new project. My main goal is to finish my novel. So I set out a writing plan for the next four months. I will edit and rewrite a certain section each month, and in addition, I will work on a smaller project (a short story or an essay), finish it in the month’s time frame, and submit it to be published.
Bring it on!